Currently viewing the tag: "reality"

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2020s. Our TV-filled minds and soda-soaked bodies got spun in a real life episode of Black Mirror. I have been writing this blog since 2007, and the primary theme for most of those years has been “mind your health.” I approached this mission from a number of angles. I stressed:

  • Be mindful of your self-care: watch what you eat, move regularly, balance your activities with rest, balance your perceptions to minimize volatilities, address your pain, and minimize toxins
  • Be hygienic and do not be petrified of pathogens. Focus more on your immune function than on any germ
  • See symptoms as your body doing its job, and think of “illness” as an opportunity
  • Keep challenging yourself physically and mentally for continuous conditioning and adaptation

My way, especially in the early years, was to pound that message into my audience, over and over again, perhaps changing the scenario or details of the story, but keeping the main points the same, always. I am big on universals.

It’s also important to be rational – that is, not have expectations that fall outside of reality. Unfortunately, it seems to be the folly of the human mind to place hope in the irrational. While the trait is widespread among us all, it generally operates beneath our awareness. A common expression of this trait is we want to save or eradicate one thing or another – many of which are simply a reality of this world and are neither savable nor eradicatable.

Take death for example. Everyone will tell you that they accept death, and they do, in the long run, without exception. However, when one takes the time to actually think about and assess our underlying views: collectively, people believe we should save life and prevent death at all costs. Our medical system runs with this as its fundamental purpose, and public opinion is often aligned with this sentiment: Nobody should die.

HealthyPreventCovidDeath3I do not believe this is a bad view. We should want to prevent death in others, particularly our loved ones, because it is a distinctively human trait. We do not need to change the things that make us beautiful as humans. But it does help in keeping bigger events in perspective when we are frank with ourselves. For instance, in accepting that all dynamical events (events moving through time) involving a life form come with an inherent probability of death. In other words, death is a part of life. There is death everywhere, and in everything there is a way to die. We might die from something we enjoy and we might die from something we don’t. There is no predicting it at all, not if you allow nature to be the director.

And, of course, that means the world will have death. We tend to perceive large scale, high probability death events as horrific: War, natural disaster, disease – all tragic, all unnecessary, all regretful. Naturally, as humans we wish to eradicate them all. It would seem absurd, of course, to most of us for the hope of the abolition of natural disasters. There isn’t a soul who fails to get that we have no control over the elements of nature. Yet, surely, the other two are controllable. War and illness are large-scale dynamic events very similar to what we might consider “natural” phenomena. But human developments are no less natural in how they flow through time, with human decision-making and action leading to an unfolding of events not under individual control. While collaborative efforts can, and certainly do, affect outcomes, they mostly contribute to the flow and unfolding of events more than they “alter” history, as we often perceive, and report on, our heroic efforts.

Understanding these “realities,” as I have already said, gives clarity to our ability to assess larger-scale phenomena. Take Covid-19, for instance: We have had nine-months, maybe longer, to observe and analyze the virus responsible, SARS-CoV-2. We have solid numbers now. Why are we acting irrationally in the face of the facts?

For nine months, I have read, listened, watched Congressional hearings on, discussed and cross-referenced this pandemic. I have heard many arguments on a few different sides, and the conclusions always depend on who is doing the talking. Some people believe we are under-reacting; others believe we are going too far. Animosity is simmering and beginning to roll to a boil. Some have been willing to unleash their aggressions on those they think are either selfish or sheep, depending on their overall perspective. But is it warranted?

I think I have laid the groundwork for an argument which I believe stems from the human propensity to not want others to die. Most of us feel that way on one level or another; it’s understandable, and in my perspective, desirable and beautiful to want others to live. But on the other hand, it seems irrational to continue strict quarantine measures, when the numbers do not justify the reaction.

The two most fundamental characteristics of a pathogen are its contagiousness and its pathogenicity. A pathogen’s contagiousness is how quickly and readily it will spread among people. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a rapid spreader. This to me is the most relevant attribute of this virus. The pathogenicity of a microorganism is its ability to cause disease. A highly pathogenic organism can cause serious damage – to individuals, yes, but also to populations as a whole. If a pathogen is both highly contagious and highly virulent, there will be enormous death. Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of the bubonic plague, the Black Death, is contagious and highly virulent. If left untreated, the death rate for this pathogen is 70-100%. As a result, it led to the death of over a third of the population of Europe.

How virulent is SARS-CoV-2? As a novel virus – meaning, it is relatively new to us – we could only estimate early on the virus’ pathogenicity, to which we then attributed a death rate. Now, understandably, in the first few months of the pandemic, we estimated high. The numbers were not large enough to approach the mean, and without a doubt, it was wise to be safe over sorry. Death rate [or infection fatality rate more accurately (IFR)] is simply calculated:

# of deaths/# of cases

As we are now nine or more months into things, the numbers are large enough that we can assume we are approximating the mean (or average). The U.S. death rate, then, using the most current numbers (as of December 17, 2020):

311,000/17,300,000 = 0.018 or 1.8% (approximately 1 in 50)

Studies like this one estimate that the actual SARS-CoV-2 infections is anywhere from 3-20 times higher than current confirmed cases. At the low end that would make the death rate

311,000/51,900,000 = .0059 or .59% (approximately 1 in 200)

At the high end

311,000/346,000,000 = .00089 or .09% (less than 1 in 1000)

Deaths-by-Age-Group-ChartFurther, approximately 40% of all U.S. deaths have been in nursing homes. If we were to remove the 100,000 nursing home deaths from the numbers above, the death rate would look like this:

211,000/17,200,000 = 0.012 or 1.2% (approximately 1 in 100)
211,000/51,800,000 = .0040 or .40% (approximately 1 in 250)

211,000/345,900,000 = .00061 or .06% (approximately 1 in 2000)

Seen from another angle, the number of people who have been infected and who have survived is as high as 1,999 of every 2,000.

This study from September 2020, estimates the infection fatality rate as .28-.31%, or roughly 3 deaths in every 1,000 infections, and according to some experts the actual death rate [case fatality ratio (CFR)] is closer to 0.02% (that’s 1 in every 5,000).

More importantly, and the real point I wish to make, is that 94% of deaths reported have had associated comorbidities, in other words, underlying health issues. Does this mean that only 6% actually died of Covid-19? No but what it does mean, though, is that people who have underlying illnesses are at a greater risk of dying from Covid-19. Well I’ve got news for you: People who have underlying illnesses are at a greater risk of dying, period. I have been trying to get this point across for going on two decades now. When will people get it? And the vast majority of underlying illnesses today are lifestyle related – that means they are PREVENTABLE! Some of the most common comorbidities associated with Covid-19 deaths are influenza and pneumonia, respiratory failure, hypertensive disease, diabetes, cardiac arrest, heart or renal failure, and obesity.

HealthyPreventCovidDeathBelieve it or not, every one of these Covid-19 death associated illnesses can be minimized by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. It’s amazing how many people get angry at me for stating this fact, that they could actually improve their health, improve their lives, and minimize illness and suffering by practicing simple healthy habits. Eating well, exercising, stretching, sleeping well, addressing emotional stresses, addressing physical pains and injuries wisely, and keeping the drugs, alcohol, and other medications to moderate levels will significantly impact your life for the better. These are simple actions that everyone can adopt, but the reality is that only a small percentage of the population actually does so. People, in general, want easy fixes, which just do not exist in the realm of health and wellness. Fixes which appear to be quick and easy (and that includes many surgeries) almost always come with unwanted consequences (aka side effects). Dying of Covid-19 is one of them.

Listen, the numbers do not lie. What makes things uncertain for the masses is the volume of different interpretations. Granted most people wish to be safe over sorry – I both get that and agree with it. However, you cannot leave your health to chance and then expect a different outcome. It is not too late for the vast majority of people. I have come to understand that only a small portion of the population will heed my words. This article is for YOU – the person who recognizes the wisdom in what I say. Do highly virulent pathogens exist? Yes. Is SARS-CoV-2 that pathogen? Not by the numbers, it isn’t. Despite hearing for months that the death rate would climb to its more accurate number, it hasn’t gone up at all – it has gone down, and in my opinion it will prove to be even lower. Does this mean we should take it lightly? NO! Do the right things for yourself and your family (what you teach them today becomes habit tomorrow). That has always been my message and it will continue to be so – it is universal.

I’m not afraid of dying. I don’t know how it’ll feel at the moment, but I’m prepared for death because I don’t believe in it. I think it’s just getting out of one car and getting into another.  ~ John Lennon

Robin Williams suicideIt has been several weeks since the world was shocked by the news of Robin Williams’ suicide, and the impact is still reverberating in me and many others, as we have such a hard time understanding why a man of Williams’ stature would take such an extreme measure. Then news this weekend of another public figure’s suicide—this one the hanging death of girl group singer Simone Battle—along with the death of an acquaintance of mine, of which I learned about via Facebook, it brought to light a number of factors I believe are worth discussing.

I was asked to “reach out” to the public regarding the subject of depression following Williams’ death, although I think that the decision to take one’s life goes well beyond that. It might be too easy to transfer our own perceptions on the one making the decision to end one’s life, as if we know or presume we can understand, or relate to, the origins of the psychological battle. And then by using these misperceptions we presume that we can then stop others from making the decision in the future. I think the notion is both false and a dishonoring of the free will of individuals. To assume that a person who makes such a decision is necessarily acting irrationally or irresponsibly is to impose one’s own morals onto another human being. And I think that those who take the most self righteous position regarding suicide have not yet felt the degree of pain and hopelessness that one must feel, to do what is likely the most difficult and counter-instinctive act any living being could carry out.

reincarnationI have heard it said that we all have a death wish at times—that is, the feeling that perhaps it would be better if we were just dead; to end the misery that we all face at one time or another. However, we also all have a life wish—that sense that life is the greatest gift we could ever have bestowed upon us. Both are one-sided illusions. The belief that we are born and we die, while ubiquitous and persistent, has no real truth outside of what happens to our material bodies. Science cannot unequivocally prove it, and spiritual teachers throughout the ages have insisted on it not being so, and they have rather compelling arguments to back up their claims. True, via our material senses, all we can surmise is a singular and solitary life cycle, but I would not bank everything on this idea, simply because our limited minds in their limited consciousness can only perceive one “reality” today. And even if it turns out to be the one reality, who is to say for anyone else whether that person’s life is worth living? We can only take such a moral position if we believe that life is the end-all-be-all, a position usually grounded in some antiquated religious belief or another. From a spiritual standpoint it makes no sense for a number of reasons (which is an article unto itself, so I won’t go into it here), and from a secular standpoint it really makes no sense. Yet that things will be better, easier, or simply ended by death is no less an illusion. From a philosophical standpoint there is no difference between life and death to the true Self. Only the Self alone exists, and it is eternal—all else is illusion.

Okay why my insistence on this philosophical argument? Because, as I see it, the only ones needing to reconcile another’s suicide are the living—those persons who continue their consciousness on the material plane. So for us the question remains: How do we deal with someone’s decision to end life? I believe that we have to look at one’s individual circumstances to understand how and why one might make that decision, and more importantly, how they can actually carry it out, since survival is a hard-wired instinct, making suicide all the more remarkable a decision, and thus likely pushed by some very deep feelings.

extreme emotional painFrom a personal standpoint, I can understand why somebody would feel as if suicide is the only option. I have had the degree of pain that might push a person to take the leap—believe me, like you, I have thought about it. Who hasn’t? Of course, the level of pain, fear and hopelessness will vary from person to person, from life situation to life situation, but as I have said, I have felt a pain that intense. My understanding is that Robin Williams had a history of extreme fluctuations in emotional states, he had some underlying health issues that would scare the bravest of us, and sources have disclosed that he had gargantuan financial troubles, one of which was over $30 million paid in alimony to his ex-wives. It would be so easy and misguided to take the position that even problems of that magnitude could not warrant suicide, but let’s throw in drugs, alcohol, aging, and misperceptions about professional career and future, and I think it’s easier to understand, for me anyway, why checking out seemed like the best option. Again, you’d have to have been in that kind of hopeless state at one time or another to understand the mind which has to process such affairs.

So am I writing this to advocate suicide? No! I neither advocate nor reject suicide. I think it is a personal choice based on many factors, but in the end, I support the right for people to exercise their free will. Yes suicide is an enormous ethical issue, because if we become too lax within society on it there is a heightened risk for foul play (disguised homicides and such). However, I don’t knock Robin William’s decision. On the contrary, I think on a human level we can be grateful for the lessons attached to it, because it is a striking reminder that no matter how much fame, money or success one has, one can only feel fulfillment from the inside. An all too common misperception among us is that “if only” we had more money, or a better career, or a better marriage, or whatever else we fool ourselves into thinking brings perpetual happiness, or peace, or fulfillment, then our lives will be better. This, too, is an illusion. I will admit that my initial reaction to Robin Williams’ suicide was shock that a mega celebrity, an Oscar winner, and clearly a vastly wealthy man would take such an action, as he could not possibly have the mundane problems that the rest of us have. But thank you Mr. Williams for reminding me that we are all just people. It’s the human mind alone that creates the fantasy that there might be “something better.”

grass greener

I do believe, however, that no matter how tough life gets, there is an alternative to suicide, and it lies in being in-tune with one’s dharma. Yes having a purpose—something that drives our existence—is the only way to overcome the harshest of life’s circumstances. Because when driven by purpose, human beings will endure the lowest of lows, the most extreme circumstances that one could undergo. We press forward when the drive on the inside is bigger than the storm on the outside—and this is only possible through divine purpose. Think George Washington, Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela and the countless others who have braved extreme life circumstances—I can assure you that each was driven by a purpose greater than him or herself. Saying that, however, I will not discount the potential spiritual dharma of Robin Williams, because who is to say that his destiny was not tied into reminding us all that the grass is NOT necessarily greener in pastures that many of us only fantasize about.

The End...for nowI also believe that our spiritual or philosophical perspectives can divert the call of suicide; not in the moralistic sense that we are committing some crime against God, but that if we can perceive life and death as simply two sides of the same coin—a temporary state of the eternal Self—then we may not be so quick to jump from one side to the other. Because if true, if we really are experiencing a temporary state of consciousness leading us on a path of self-awakening and awareness, then we cannot escape the challenges we must inevitably face for our eventual self-realization, no matter how many lifetimes it will take. Either way, I honor Robin Williams’, Simone Battle’s and every other person’s decision to end this chapter of their existence. It’s free will, something many of us argue for and champion under most circumstances; but when it comes to suicide, our fears and moralistic imprints tend to guide our perceptions, leading us to suffering when somebody commits the act. But for the one who has made the decision to check out…honor his or her right to exercise free will.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Nick Campos - All Rights Reserved.