Aliens, Buddhas, and COVID-19

There are certain questions to which no one knows the answers. 

In fact, even the correct answer to any question is always provisional. There is no final answer. 

There’s a lot of misinformation and lies around this whole COVID-19 thing. The other day my girlfriend’s mom received a notification that the National Guard was closing down all the supermarkets. Her sister’s neighbor told her sister that walking around outside was basically like walking through a huge cloud of viruses.

There’s a lot of wild speculation out there too, about how we’re gonna be locked down until next June, about how the virus will mutate into something even worse, and so on and on. There are dozens of horror movie scenarios making the rounds on social media.

But the bottom line is that nobody really knows anything. 

There are people who’ve studied past epidemics, or other viruses. There are people who make statistical models and projections. There are doctors and epidemiologists and politicians. And they’ve all got their areas of expertise. They may be very good at what they do.

But they don’t know either.

Some people are smarter about certain things than others. It’s smart for those of us who don’t know much about those things to listen to people who have studied them more than we have. 

I have my own useless speculations about COVID-19 too. Wanna hear them?

OK. Just keep in mind that I am not an expert. 

You should not believe me.

Got that? You understand that you shouldn’t believe what I say about COVID-19? 

Good. Here goes.

From around December 20, 2019 until around January 10th of this year I was sick with something that was exactly like they’re describing COVID-19. I know that COVID-19 produces flu-like symptoms, and that what I had could have been just plain old flu. But it wasn’t just the fever, body aches, and incessant dry cough that make me think it could have been COVID-19. 

I’ve read several accounts of people who’ve had COVID-19 who described the disease as progressing in stages. First they got what seemed like a normal cold for 4 or 5 days. Then they seemed to recover. But then after 2-3 days the symptoms came back with a vengeance. After this, some got really sick and had to go to the hospital, while most recovered.

Well that’s what happened to me in December. I tried to figure out why I relapsed from the cold that I already seemed to have recovered from. Like maybe I somehow “overdid it” during those days when I felt like I’d gotten better. But I didn’t overdo anything. The most strenuous activity I did during that period was a 40 minute workout on an elliptical machine. Like that’s gonna be enough to make a normal cold or flu come back? I don’t think so.

Some smart people are speculating that novel coronavirus could have made its way out of China a month or more before the first cases outside of China were confirmed in early January, 2020. They say it might have been circulating “invisibly” for all those weeks without anyone who got sick from it ever suspecting it was anything other than a nasty flu. Some are even saying there might be millions of people all over the world who have already contracted the virus and then recovered from it.

There is currently no way to know for certain. The only way to either confirm or rule out this line of speculation would be to start mass testing people for antibodies to the virus. Right now, they’re almost exclusively testing people only to see if the virus is currently active in their bodies. This doesn’t give us any clear indication about who might have had the virus already and then gotten better. Which is a very significant number! An antibody test does exist, but it hasn’t been deployed widely yet. Once it’s deployed, the entire picture of what we’re dealing with may change drastically.

It’s clear that this pandemic is serious stuff. It’s good that we are doing all we can to try to contain it. I am fully cooperating with every recommendation. And yet I suspect that the eventual consensus that will form about what exactly COVID-19 is will be quite different from the current understanding about it.

But I am not a doctor or any sort of expert on viruses and epidemics. 

So, again, you should not take my word on any of this.

I’m just a regular guy who reads the news. If I hadn’t gotten sick the way I did, I might be less inclined to favor this particular line of speculation. But I did get sick, and so my own experience plays a large part in what I tend to believe.

I am certainly taking every precaution, even as I suspect it might not really be necessary for me. It would be idiotic not to do so. I would advise anyone else who suspects they’ve already had this stuff to do the same.

I am also well aware that experts from Al-Jazeera and Politifact tell us that there is no way anyone outside of China had COVID-19 before January, 2020. But, then again, these articles also say the disease was first identified in China on December 31, 2019, while this has now been revised to November 17, 2019.

Will that date be revised again? I don’t know. But I think it’s clear that the Chinese government was hoping to conceal the existence of the disease until it became clear that they couldn’t. Maybe they hoped that if anyone outside of China got it from one of the millions of people they allowed to travel internationally late last year, they’d write it off as the flu. And, by the way, pretty much anyone who travels from China to the USA ends up in Los Angeles for at least a few hours.

Perhaps when they finally roll out mass testing for antibodies to COVID-19 it will confirm that the Chinese government, Al-Jazeera, Politifact, and everyone else who supports the idea that no one outside of China could have had this stuff at the time that I was sick are right. I may be proven wrong. If I am proven wrong, I will be glad that I decided to err on the side of caution and follow all the protocols.

But now that I’ve given you my little pet theory, which you should not believe, by the way, I want you to notice what I just did.

I want to believe that this disease is going to end up being far less scary than lots of people say it is. And, of course, I would love to believe that I am already immune. 

Furthermore, we all want to think we are special. If I was one of a few hundred or a few thousand people had this stuff far earlier than we were supposed to, and who, therefore, could help confirm something new about this disease, I would be very special indeed. 

In short, I believe what I want to believe. 

What I want to believe about COVID-19 is sort of like what I believe about aliens and Buddhas. I know it’s almost certain that alien civilizations exist. But I also know that it’s highly unlikely they’ve made contact with anyone on this planet. Even so, I still think there must be something to the UFO phenomenon. I don’t think it’s impossible that it’s aliens. Just very, very unlikely.

When I first encountered Buddhism, I had no way to rationally determine if Buddhism was true. When my first Zen teacher, Tim McCarthy, said that the only way to find out if Buddhism was true was to do a lot of zazen for a long time, that sounded like an awfully big gamble. What if I spent twenty years sitting — which was longer than I’d been alive at that point — only to discover that the whole thing was a big waste of effort? 

And yet I had an intuition that what Tim said was true. So I sat anyway. Luckily for me, it turned out that Tim was right.

A lot of what I’ve chosen to believe in this life has been based on intuition, on a sneaky little feeling that I couldn’t put into words. 

And yet I have always hedged my bets. I had an intuitive sense that Tim might be right about Zen, but I didn’t sell everything I owned and run off to a monastery. I stayed in school. Even when I moved to Japan, I made sure I had a job there first. And I didn’t quit that job even when Zen practice became the main focus of my life.

I’m doing something similar in the face of this global pandemic. I have an intuitive feeling about it. I believe it will turn out to be far less scary than a lot of people are saying it will be. Yet I am still behaving like a person who believes the scare-mongers out there are right.

Because maybe they are.

And maybe UFOs really are alien spaceships.

After all, nobody knows for sure.

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