“Human health is the great global connector.”
― Kathleen Sebelius, former US Secretary of Health and Human Services
|Lincoln Stoller, PhD, 2020. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
Things that do not connect to us do not exist for us, which means we only see what relates to us. That doesn’t mean everything that’s connected to us is connected to everything else. Rather, it’s a network, and networks have many structures.
We are connected to rocks, we use them for foundations. But from a rock’s point of view, we play no role in their geology. If I hit you with a rock it’s bad news for you, but hitting a rock with you means nothing to a rock. The nature of the connection makes all the difference.
For our simple minds, things are connected in either one or both directions. That is, the connection either goes one way or both ways. We think of one-way connections as inert because the object in a one-way connection is unresponsive: nothing comes back. That describes our connection to rocks.
A two-way connection creates a dialog and the connection becomes part of a complex, or a system. There is feedback; there are consequences. People form systems with other people. People form connections with elements in their ecology.
I look for two-way connections. Two-way connections create things that are greater than one-way cause and effect. New identities arise from systems that foster the creation of new things. If there is a current, growth, and resonance, then these new things can appear life-life. An ecology arises from multiple two-way connections and it is a life-like thing. An ecology is a living thing even though it doesn’t have a membrane around it. This is how we’re looking at the virus: as a component of an ecological system.
From our preconceived view of the world, we give time a special role. Because of this prejudice, we overlook similarities between time and space. Because we live in a time-trending universe—one in which we’re all moving together through time and not one in which we’re all moving together through space—we don’t recognize as constant things that change in time. In spite of this, there are many similarities between structures that vary over time and structures that vary over space.
For example—as was recently described in the scientific literature—there are time crystals. These are things whose structures manifest stable, regular, and repeating patterns through time. There are many complex systems that, under the right conditions, fall into repeating patterns: ecologies, weather patterns, markets, people, and civilizations. These are some examples of the many things that our limited concept of time structures has prevented us from understanding.
We recognize things as separate when they persist separately without support. We identify a boundary as the container of a thing. We accept a thing as having some unique identity if this thing is constant along its boundary in spite of what may be changing inside its boundary.
We create boundaries on things so that we can say that they’re separate. Then, we give them an identity. And when that boundary fails—and that boundary may be a skin or another person’s role in our lives—we see this as a kind of death. Such as the loss of a relationship with another, or outgrowing a part of ourselves.
We don’t call it death when all of your cells are replaced within a month—which they are—because our presentation to others and our sense of self remains the same. But if the presentation ends, then we recognize that something has ended and we call it “death.” And it’s not our own cessation of life that we recognize as death, it’s our cessation of person-hood. The criteria of death are actually difficult to define and are rather arbitrary.
When it comes to looking at systems, we need to take a wider view. Systems are not just the things we see and recognize, they are also things that contain us and exist within us.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a system, it’s a whole container of relationships. And this is not only because it has a cause and an effect, but also because it arises from previously disconnected elements and creates new relationships. These new systems—new ways of working, traveling, governing, considering, and forming conclusions—”crystallize” out of the cauldron of preceding affairs. Many of these systems will persist without the virus; they will not simply disappear when the virus disappears.
The structure that COVID-19 creates is not just an infection. It is that, but it also makes changes to the environment. The story of the virus’s emergence—all the stories of the virus’s emergence—are part of the pandemic’s structure.
The final story that endures into the future will be labeled “history,” but any one history is an illusion. There are other stories which may or may not be remembered: Latin, Anglo, and Afro; the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural, the uninfected, the survivor, and the casualty. The pandemic has triggered an avalanche of stories: economic, political, international, racial, and authoritarian. Which is the “real” story? Who will decide what we choose to forget?
The manner in which the disease unfolds is just as much a part of its structure as scientific facts, historical truths, or media hype. I have written this book to trace the structure that emerges following the path of a therapist-scientist-survivor-critic. The chronicle uses these four lenses. What comes into focus is not telescopic, but kaleidoscopic.
There is no more truth to any one history of COVID-19 than there is to social revolution, racial injustice, or the medical establishment. The virus provides a convenient hook on which to hang everything. Everything is the virus’s fault and no one cares what the virus “thinks.” We can reinvent the virus entirely.
But the virus does have a point of view. What it “thinks” is what it evolves to do, which is a function of the larger ecology we have created for it. From its point of view, none of our opinions have merit. The virus simply exploits a fertile niche until that resource becomes limited. From the virus’s point of view, humanity is no different than a petri dish. We would be wise to recognize that in some situations, we are merely a resource to be mined, like oil.
This book looks at the virus like a time crystal: something precipitated into existence by an abrupt transition. It grew like a snowflake to encompass the earth. It will consolidate like a glacier and, eventually, move or melt and run into the sea. The sea, in this case, will be the collective pool of genetic material that the virus shares with us and the microbes within us.
This book is also a crystal. It starts at the time of the virus’s emergence in North America’s public awareness—which is coincident with my acquiring it. With each chapter, the contagion spreads through the world as it spreads through me. My case was mild, but it was significant. Because I am sensitive—and becoming sensitive is the theme of this book—I trace aspects of the disease that have only been described in separate people.
I have experienced every symptom of the disease except the worst ones: I did not have lung symptoms, and I did not have organ failure. All the others I have had, including upper respiratory, circulatory, neural, gastrointestinal, and epidermal symptoms. I have had—and still have—post-viral fatigue symptoms, which are only starting to be discussed, and which are not understood.
Today’s culture increasingly rejects objectivity and, some would say, reason. The rejection of objectivity has been long in coming. On the other hand, reason is not what’s being rejected, it’s deduction. That is because deduction requires the facts, and when the facts are absent or corrupted, reason is reduced to authority. It’s reduced to who has the authority to define the facts. Today’s culture is rejecting authority.
The alternative to this kind of thinking—that which is seen as hostage to authority, that is to deductive thinking—is inductive thinking. Support for inductive thinking is rising. The increasingly repressed culture—rich and poor—is being denied the power to define its world. And whether the leadership is benevolent, malevolent, patriarchal or matriarchal, if the situation forbids the chaos of growth, then it is repressive and will be resented.
In this situation, most people are being forced to accept the reasoning of a few, in particular, they’re being forced to accept what authorities present as science. What’s being presented is not really science, because science is always skeptical, but people are miseducated to think that science means certainty. This misrepresentation is done intentionally to reduce chaos and improve political control.
This parallels the way parents defeat their children by using reason and authority. This abusive modeling denies a child’s intuition and prevents learning. Abusive reason is just as much a failure in politics as it is in parenting. In both cases you pay for it with chaos.
Inductive thinking is conjectural. It allows much wider conclusions and—while it is less accurate than deduction based on facts—its scope is more inclusive. In times of change, uncertainty, and multiplicity the “real facts” are unknown or nonexistent. In these times, induction is more useful. Induction opens the paths of suspicion, whimsy, and creativity which deduction forbids until evidence allows.
We are exploring the mind’s connection to the body where the nature of objectivity and subjectivity is ambiguous: you are your mind sees of yourself, but there is more to you or which you are unaware. When we focus on ourselves, our distinctions between using objectivity and subjectivity—limiting ourselves to being reasonable—go out the window. If you want to find, become, or accept greater power, then you must recognize there is more to you than what you are aware of.
Everything is born from something; birthing something new requires the release of something old. In personal growth, there is always some part of you that you cannot bring along. In some cases this applies to healing; it certainly applies to psychosomatic issues. Psychosomatic healing involves a release.
All illness has a psychological aspect either in its inception, progression, or recovery. Finding health means losing illness; finding strength means losing weakness. We attach meaning to all our experiences, and we attach some part of ourselves to our illness and our weakness.
In some cases, our sense of vulnerability may precede our illness, in other cases, it may follow. It need not be causal at first—vulnerability leading to illness—but it can become causal once you have established the connection. You can use the connections you create in your mind to effect changes in your physical outcome.
You and your illness is not so unique. Your illness represents a vulnerability of our species. It’s an experience we share as a culture. You can see this as simply the manner in which we have all been trained to deal with the experience. How we react to illness, whom we seek help from, and what support we expect.
There is a personal, learned aspect to our immunity. Our immune system does not operate entirely on its own, it learns at all levels: chemically, genetically, epigenetically, subconsciously, and consciously. And since some of this is taught to us, our immune system’s learning also occurs socially.
This book approaches many aspects, but it does not consolidate them. Instead, it leaves the separate threads because there is not one, objective story. Each of us will take these threads and weave a tapestry specific to ourselves—our own tartan of truth. This is how we take ownership: by creation, not by authority.
There is duplication in these chapters: points about diet, chemistry, microbes, information, and medicine. But the book’s main purpose is not as a summary but a resource, something to be used by those at risk of infection.
Individuals & Institutions
I consider many systems, from bio-molecules to species ecology, but there are two major systems I overlook. The first is how people understand things. The virus presents a learning opportunity and it reveals which people have successful learning skills, and which do not.
I am offering you a new perspective and a different experience. I’m assuming you’ll understand it, but it won’t make sense to everyone. Many of us have been taught to think linearly, either to follow authority or to limit ourselves to what has already been taught to us. To see things from a new perspective you’ll need to open your mind.
The content in the first part of each chapter, the text, takes a rational approach approach, but the hypnotic journeys in the second part of each chapter do not. Every hypnotic induction starts by asking you to drop your reasoning mind, and this is too much for some people. Those people have bigger problems than being unable to follow this book: they also can’t follow their intuition. Intuition exists in an emotional realm in which single conclusions don’t exist.
The second issue I’ve overlooked is global politics. While SARS-CoV-2 is a virus, the situation it has created goes beyond individual to global illness.
This is not an infection, but it is an illness. It is our global Geo-political dysfunction. I do not explore this; I can’t, it’s too large. But you will not understand what’s happening at any human level—that is, outside of the molecular—without some understanding the Geo-politics.
There are hints that something is wrong in the suspiciously misguided or ineffective government responses. These are largely written off to ignorance, but they are not ignorant, they are all part of some strategy. It may not be the right strategy, and it may not be a strategy that’s healthy for most people, in the short-term, or for you, but none of the institutional responses are baseless.
Few of the institutional responses are what they appear to be. Institutions primarily serve themselves and in chaotic times many of these institutions find themselves in conflict with each other. In the conflagration of COVID-19, many institutions are unsure of how to accomplish their own long-term goals. The layers of misrepresentation and disinformation may never be fully unraveled.
In the US, we are witnessing conflicts between the Executive and Legislative branches of government that began with the surprise election of Donald Trump as US President in 2016, a man whose only previous experience was as a financial dictator and TV game-show host. These conflicts have expanded to conflicts between federal, state, and municipal governments, and between military, social, and private sector services.
From roots of populism, poverty, racism, globalism, militarism, corporatism, and xenophobia—trends that have been growing in all the world’s superpowers and their satellites—we are now seeing toxic blooms in each cultural sphere. There are both accusations in the press and rioting in the streets.
The dominant institutional conflict should not come as any surprise: it is the fight for global dominance. This is waged on two fronts: the control of money and the control of data. The player who controls the world’s money controls the power. The player who controls the data controls the decisions.
We do not yet have global control of data. Each country is rushing to establish data hegemony within its boundaries and extend that control as far as possible. The reason the tech sector has become financially dominant is not just because they’re selling smartphones, it’s because they are selling the control of data and people as resources, and their major clients are governments.
Beneath product marketing are currents of collaboration, confederation, subterfuge, intelligence, espionage, security, and sabotage. This is what fuels conspiracy theories, and they’re not false; they’re just woefully inadequate.
We do have a global money system, but it’s not stable. The fight for a dominant global currency, having been waged for decades out of the public eye—centuries, really: why do you think the Spanish wanted Montezuma’s gold?—is now coming to a head in the conflict between the US dollar and the Chinese renminbi.
It doesn’t really matter what currency is used, the issue is who controls it. This is the real reason that government responses to the pandemic have focused on securing their financial systems and extending their financial reach, not on the health of their citizenry.
Only one-tenth of the US government’s financial response to the pandemic has addressed personal health; nine-tenths has gone to support corporate health. In the process, massive shifts of power—which were already underway—are centralizing institutional control of assets and data in all the superpowers. This is a continuation of war by other means.
This book is about ecology and each of its chapters is a segment of this ecology. The pandemic can only be understood by bringing together its many pieces. Pieces that differ in size, affect various populations, and will persist over various scales of time.
Chapter two, The New Flu, takes things at face value. We look at things as they appear to be. COVID-19 appears to be a disease. It affects a person’s breathing. There are no drugs to defeat it. It’s spreading. Everyone is susceptible to it.
Chapter three, The Lymphatic System, takes a step away from the medical system to reflect on our body’s natural response. This is compared with the national and international response, still at a face-value level. I work to convince you of the third way: the way of your body.
Chapter four, Become An Activist, begins to show agitation as institutions bungle their efforts at advancing public health, and obviously necessary actions are not taken. I admonish readers to become their own advocates and find their own information.
In chapter five, Hypnosis for Your Lungs, the discrepancy between individual needs and institutional initiates is becoming clearer. Attention shifts as international news focuses on accusations and recrimination. The medical system struggles to cope as governments fail to supplement resources. Doctors trained to follow algorithms have none.
Chapter six, Your Stomach, is my experience with COVID-19’s gastrointestinal rout, with the connection between gut and brain. Nothing I’ve learned then or since has shed light on the mechanisms or consequences of the gut infection. Applying our intuition is all the more important here.
Chapter seven, Time to Look Around, reviews the medical and media context of what we see, what we know, and what we feel. The emphasis is on integration: to understand how these disjoint aspects of the pandemic could be different parts of the same system.
Chapter eight, Future Visions, returns to the microscopic. We take matters into our own hands and address ourselves to the central battleground of the infection: our cells. What does it mean for a virus to breach a cell, and what tools in our arsenal can affect this?
Chapter nine, Rethinking the Implausible, takes this a step further: down to the level of molecules. Now, the issue is chemical, and the question becomes that of our control of our chemistry, the role of our electrical system, and whether or not we can control it.
Chapter ten, Viral Fatigue, steps beyond what is advertised as “the disease” to bring into focus the post-acute infection. The so-far ignored issue of post-viral infection is brought into focus. It is destined to come into focus since it can be debilitating, chronic, and widespread.
Chapter eleven, Spirit, moves beyond the body to ask for the virus’s spiritual implications. Does it have a purpose or a purpose for us? If health and healing exist beyond medicine and social policy, then how do we get there, and should we be working there now?
Chapter twelve, Ecology Big and Small, asserts that spirit, when seen in the large, is not the realm of deity but of ecology. Certainly, the cosmos is home to the divine, but perhaps the virus’s larger reality is a call personal strength; a larger mind and an awakening for individuals to control the future through the evolution of our thoughts.
The summary of chapter thirteen, Consilience of Reason and Emotion, proposes these pieces have a common future. Consilience is the unity of separate fields—science and the humanities in particular. Resolving COVID-19 will not end all the conflicts, but the conflicts inflamed by COVID-19 will only resolve with the fundamental conflicts that underlie them.
The world we see is an illusion, and there are other participants in our world who see the world differently. Our illusion doesn’t define reality.
Microbes see a world we could not possibly imagine. The Arctic shark lives 500 years in a solitary world of boundless darkness. Forest trees have a community consciousness that decides when to make it rain. Chromosomes outlive our bodies following their own path of adaptation and evolution. The ecosystem as a whole follows a poly-rhythm of parts with duration ranging from chemical reactions to continental drift.
We’ve created machines allowing us to describe aspects we cannot see, but technology has also removed us from our environment. It’s this less varied experience, not our knowledge of the details, that defines our consensual reality. What is “real” for each system is defined by what each interacts with it, over the time scales at which this happens.
Asking you to imagine a different reality is a small request. Imagining yourself to be in control, healthy, and aware means recognizing the degree to which you are not, but could be more in control, health, and aware. Is that really so much to ask? That’s all that hypnosis is: asking you to imagine another reality to such a degree that you really believe it.
The world you see is the illusion we’ve agreed on. Most of the time we agree, as long as we don’t look too closely. We don’t ask what exactly is the smell of a rose because we can’t answer this question. We get along by not asking “why?”
When things don’t “get along” they change or disappear. Humans have created ecological crises in which this is happening in many quarters. How quickly we can change our relationship with our environment will determine which relationships find a new balance and which relationships disappear.
Human inclinations have shown little change, but then evolution is driven by necessity not by intention. There are too many simultaneous changes that need to be made for any single strategy to drive an ecology.
This work is partly an exposition and partly a reprogramming. In each chapter, the text explains the guided visualizations in the way that descriptions describe paintings. You’re asked to become the story I’m telling not as a reader or a listener, but as a participant. To really be there. Like art, hypnotism repopulates your traumatic history and changes your character.
In all these visualizations I am leading you to a visceral connection of your mind’s intention and to a new experience. This may seem foreign at first, but it comes with practice. Practice both in relaxing the critical mind and in unleashing the creative one.
Use sleep and dreams. Listen to these inductions before going to bed, or before going into a contemplative situation and let them brew and steep. The visualizations might reappear in your dreams but, more likely, they will color your dreams. That’s all you’re aiming for: to have your intentions considered by the subconscious part of your mind that manages your affairs.
Chapter two’s visualization, Nose and Throat, is our first exploration into heightened awareness. Relaxation is your first goal. Being aware of your breath is a primary means.
Chapter three’s Your Lymphatic System asks you to trace in your body a system you’re never felt or, if you have felt it with a swelling here or there, to put it together as a whole. Recognize that there is an essential part of you that you have never seen, and that you can see, and that you can enhance.
Chapter four’s Unwinding the Negative is a call to a sense of positive action. The combination of foreboding and misinformation has led to mass anxiety with a self-reinforcing effect. By pushing hard on the rudder, Unwinding the Negative seeks to exit this tailspin.
Chapter five’s Airways leads you down your esophagus and into your lungs as a participant, not a victim. The whole mechanical, Western Medical approach is victim-based. This is dangerous, unjustified, and ridiculous.
Chapter seven presents The Gut Part I-Stomach for those who want greater upper gastrointestinal awareness. There are massive connections between our minds and our G.I. tract. You know of this, but you are scarcely a participant in it. You can be. You just need to pay attention.
Chapter seven, The Voyage, calls for emotional balance. It is the emotions that reside in the gut through the gut’s effect on hormones and neurotransmitters. Saddle an awareness of the gut and take the reins of emotion in order to educate your immunity.
In chapter eight’s visualization, Membrane Locksmith, I take you to the abstract level of your membranes, the front line in your defense against infection. I suggest the unreasonable idea that you have the power to control individual cells of your body. Unreasonable as it may be, it is demonstrably true.
Mind and Molecules, in chapter nine, continues building your relationship with your microscopic awareness through the concept of current. These currents provide the energy that supports your chemistry. You experience current as energy in your tissues. Let’s call it by its oriental name: chi.
With chapter ten’s The Harmony of the Microbes, we move past the acute phase to reconstruction, or so we hope. Chronic viral fatigue does not affect everyone, but for those who are affected, the gut seems to hold the key. These are the microbes we want to harmonize, that half of the cells of your body that COVID-19 has thrown into disarray.
Chapter eleven’s Spirit and Reason is the first of our two spiritual excursions. This first excursion opens you to a greater beyond., beyond your body and into a land of personal meaning. Here resides your purpose and motivation; the reason for healing and patience.
Our final journey, chapter twelve’s Ecology, is an invitation to experience yourself as part of a larger system. That’s all ecology is: systems. They’re layered over and around each other, sometimes parallel and at other times intersecting.
You’re part of it. As small as you may think you are, you are not small because these systems are not entirely stable, and that’s what your mind is for: to guide these systems. You are the intelligence in the machine.
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