Neither Here Nor There; or, The Cost of Attention
Epidemiologists are now saying that the first death from this particular coronavirus was in Santa Cruz, California on February 6th, not on February 29th in Seattle, as we’d all been told. That was 73 days ago. Not even a full business quarter.
The Times Coronavirus Live Updates goes on: “In a little over two months, the economy would grind to a halt, nearly the entire country and much of the world would be ordered to shelter at home and life would be transformed for nearly the entire planet. In that time, more than 40,000 Americans have died, part of a global toll of 172,000 — a number that most likely vastly underestimates the true count.”
Viruses are like that.
If the trajectory of discovery on this one pathogen is any indicator, the revelation of what’s really going on for a genuine virus comes from a Janus combination of strategic detective work, namely looking back, and agonizing projection work, namely looking forward. How we tell the story is deeply influenced by whichever way we’re facing at the time.
N.B. Janus, the two-faced god, “is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. Usually depicted as having two faces, one looks to the past and one looks to the future.” There is, however, one place where Janus cannot place their divine attention, and that place is the present.
Do not misunderstand my point. Looking to the past is valuable as is looking to the future in all sorts of circumstances — global pandemics and spiritual development included.
“Mike Baker and Sheri Fink report on how the high-tech detective work of the researchers in Seattle and their partners elsewhere have opened the first clear window into how and where the virus was spreading — and how difficult it will be to contain.”
These are the folks who honor the past-facing Janus.
I’m sure that’s why I liked that Jay Timmons, the head of the National Association of Manufacturers, one of America’s largest business lobbying groups, had another word for the [lockdown] protesters: idiots. These people are standing so close together without any protection — with children, for God’s sakes,” Mr. Timmons said in an interview. “And they have no concern, and it’s all about them, and it’s all about what they want.”
These are the folks who honor the future-facing Janus.
Of note, Janus is a primordial deity, protean, parentless. Ever-obliging author’s friend Wikipedia says, “Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. The gates of a building in Rome named after Janus (not a temple, as it is often called, but an open enclosure with gates at each end) were opened in time of war, and closed to mark the arrival of peace (which did not happen very often).”
The Romans claimed Janus all for themselves. He has no Greek counterpart. Interestingly, the Latin origins of the name mean doorway and imply a god of action. Other etymologies say the name means going, passing, regardless, moving from one place to another.
“[M]ost modern scholars’ view the god’s functions as being organized around a single principle: presiding over all beginnings and transitions, whether abstract or concrete, sacred or profane.” I find it fascinating that in later artistic etchings of the Two-Faced Janus, the face toward the past is male; the face toward the future is female.
Is Janus the god of coronavirus? Could be.
“Janus frequently symbolized change and transitions such as the progress of past to future, from one condition to another, from one vision to another, and young people’s growth to adulthood. He represented time, because he could see into the past with one face and [she could see] into the future with the other.”
Certainly, we cannot fathom that coronavirus is here to stay, a permanently present state of affairs in our world. We did not see our past as including an invisible pathogen felling our compatriots without cease. We do not dare see our future as including just such a scenario ongoing.
All we can do is face, pun intended, the present because the present is the only space from within which to heed the backward-and-forward-looking Janus’ advice. In fact, the present is the only place extant in which to act, to move, to create change.
And so, we come to the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day which happens to be today. Here’s a quickie history lesson from Wikipedia.
“In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a United States Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea to hold a nationwide environmental teach-in on April 22, 1970. He hired a young activist, Denis Hayes, to be the National Coordinator. Nelson and Hayes renamed the event “Earth Day.” Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in recognition of his work. The first Earth Day was focused on the United States.” It now reaches around the world.
The New York Times’ coverage is both thrilling and devastating. They lead with ten pieces of good news and ten equal pieces of bad news. Janus much? Here are a couple of them.
“Oil spills are rarer (if still big sometimes). But humans remain addicted to oil.
“Environmentalism is now in the DNA of American politics. Yet it seems we’re more divided than ever.”
The face-flipping in these stark words makes the Janus faces a blur. Think Wimbledon singles.
You can see where this is going, can’t you?
There’s only one place, one, where any of this can be addressed. Here. Now. Sure, and completely valid, understanding our past can give us wisdom if we let it; sure, and completely valid, projecting into our future can give us wisdom if we let it.
But the only place to effect anything that will determine our future is The Present, the one place that two-faced Janus cannot see. Interestingly, there is no will in Janus’ blind spot. Foundational deity or not, Janus is not meant to see in the present. Not part of the design.
There is, however, will in our unwillingness to face the present moment. I have maintained for many decades that humans actually don’t use much free will. Instead, we live based on free won’t, but that’s another post.
Environmentalism may be here to stay, but the awareness of it one day a year does only a very little bit to help the environment. Instead, we would be well-advised by the future-facing Janus Herself if each one of us would take one piece of the environmental puzzle and act to correct that one issue.
As I said yesterday, mine is trees. What’s yours? This is really a much deeper question. What I’m really asking is: what in your environment is important enough to you to sustain ongoing, consistent effort from your deeply caring heart to act to change it for the better?
If what you can do is give money to support reforestation, that’s good enough.
The same holds for the coronavirus. What part of the pandemic calls you to a sense of inner responsibility that is important enough to you for you to act on it and act consistently?
If what you can do in the present is simply wear a mask, that’s good enough.
Remember that the two-faced Janus didn’t have a temple. They had a gateway through an open enclosure. Those two words make a magical oxymoron, don’t they? Open enclosure. Isn’t that what our lockdown is asking of us?
That we open our hearts to one another, that we do whatever we can to ease the stress and strain on ourselves, that we remain enclosed for the sake of our communities. “Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace.”
I am not a warmonger by any means. In fact, part of my life mission is to offer inner peace to everyone I encounter. Remember that there were gates on either end of Janus’ open enclosure. “They were opened in time of war, and closed to mark the arrival of peace (which did not happen very often).”
Language is a fascinating creature, Beloved. We have an idiom that we use for attention all the time. It goes: Pay attention! There is a cost to attending. That cost is that when I attend to Trees, I might not be able to attend to oil spills at the same time. That’s okay though because someone else will, someone else who cares more about the oil spills than the trees. Are you willing to pay the cost of attention? Good.
I’d like to suggest a new configuration for both Earth Day and the coronoavirus. Let’s not close the gates when we approach peace any more. Instead, consider the wisdom of the future-facing goddess, Janus, and move to open the gates wide to peace for the whole world.
Dr. Susan Corso is a metaphysician and medical intuitive with a private counseling practice for more than 35 years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is www.susancorso.com
© Dr. Susan Corso 2020 All rights reserved.