Sunday, September 13 – Fractions

By Jorah Kai CHONGQING, CHINA

Day 235. I used to be impatient, rushing towards something or someone on the horizon, some concept of destiny. Now, I try to revel in the moment, unsure of how uncomfortable the future itself might be, or what might lie ahead in the months and years to come. Instead, I take solace in the day-to-day mundane occupations: the simple joy in sweeping and washing, cutting, cooking, smiling, and laughing because this is life, and life is a treasure.

“A Jaw-dropping photo of our era,” says my friend and hardcore Bernie Sanders progressive campaigner. “Cardboard people (are) watching baseball under a dystopian climate-havoc sky. It didn’t have to be like this.” 

 It is true the road ahead is a bumpy one, but it’s what we make of it. The path forward is either one of doom and gloom or resilience and regeneration, of solar punk dreams. It is really up to us. We will see technological wonders and an unprecedented climate crisis. If we don’t take extreme action to arrest it, a mass extinction event of biodiversity will have severe consequences for our comfort and stability.

“There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” — Seneca.

All we can do is our best, so work hard, and be ready to sacrifice for what you love.

It’s been six months since the WHO finally, months after their checklist had been crossed off, declared SARS-COV-2 and COVID-19 a global pandemic. Next week, it will be nine months since I’ve been on lockdown and more than 230 days of writing my resilience journal. The numbers are most likely grossly underreported, but official counts are 940,353 deaths worldwide, 200,280 of them in America alone, 9188 in Canada. We are creeping up on 30 million declared and tested cases worldwide, although the real number is likely ten times that many. Fall might be messy, with back to school and work and a second wave rising in many places, but in some ways, our treatment is getting much better, so we’re not seeing the deaths accelerate with the case numbers. “Coronavirus UK cases soar by 3,330 in one day, in highest numbers since mid-May” – Daily Mirror.

An interesting theory going around is called the XYZ theory: X% of the population demonstrates some pre-existing immunity, possibly cellular T-cell immunity, maybe as high as 30%. Y percent get exposed but don’t develop antibodies: T-cell immunity, and mild cases? Perhaps as high as 40%, Z% produces traditional B-cell antibodies. 10-20% seroprevalence for London, Madrid, NYC. That plus social behavior changes that drops the R0 together might be enough to reach ‘herd immunity’ of some kind. Well, it’s a theory I’ve heard Dr. Chris Martenson and a few others discuss. I’m not convinced, but it would be nice. Keep it in mind, test it, and see if it holds.

Finally, after being considered a tinfoil hatter for holding onto the idea that hydroxychloroquine could be an efficacious treatment for COVID-19 after the media mocked supporters and institutions such as Oxford and the WHO stopped massive studies after saying it was dangerous and harmful, a group of Canadian researchers are ‘sounding the alarm’ that authorities are ‘misinterpreting COVID-19 trial data’ with ‘disastrous results.’ In a nutshell, HCQ has been safely used for years for malaria and lupus and other issues. Still, these massive studies either used later-discounted (fake) data or gave toxically (300-500% of suggested safe daily doses) and also failed to consider the timing of the medicine concerning the condition of the patient, development of the disease, and other key factors, such as using Azithromycin, Zinc and Vitamin D. Why some of our best institutions would make such seemingly simple mistakes and discount a medicine that could be bought at a discount, generic prices ($5 for 1000 doses maybe), we will never know. Still, the simplest motive seems to be the interests of big money pharma and profit, since drugs like Remdisivir that cost $3000 a dose and have only been shown to limit hospital stay by an average of 3-5 days have been heavily invested in, shows people at the top are looking to make a lot of money off treating the pandemic. So, now that some studies have shown significant drops in case fatality using the HCQ+AZ+D+Zinc combo, and months were lost and close to a million dead, we’re going to try it again. Ok then. That’s what happened.

Confusion, disorientation, agitation, and even psychosis can be symptoms of COVID-19, says a new research study, highlighting connections between infected and neurological problems. Brain inflammation is considered a possible cause for the damage (connection to the coagulation and stroke issues?), but researchers aren’t sure yet why some suffer these intense symptoms while many do not. It could be related to a vitamin D or zinc deficiency, age, or other comorbidities, or simply be related to the viral inoculum – how much virus you’ve got and how your body is able to fight back or not. Hopefully, time will tell.

Life can be challenging, and the night full of terrors and strife, but I find the key to my mental wellbeing, good cheer, and general happiness comes from breaking it down into fractions. It’s the only way I ever finished a novel: an insurmountable task taken at once, but when broken down into very small daily tasks such as “write an outline” or “draft the main ideas” or “write the first draft of one chapter a day or 2000 words” then it becomes very achievable. Making fractions of my life’s moments is sometimes it’s the only way I can get through a workday. Every Saturday, while my colleagues take rest instead, I find myself doing 4 two hour classes, and it feels like so much, but I start the first one at 10 am with a 10-minute warmup, 10-minute practice, and 10-minute review, and now I’m halfway to a break. After a break, I’m only another half-hour from a review game, and then I have an hour to relax. Then it’s lunchtime and only 6 hours to go. I do this again, and four hours have gone by the most challenging four, and if I pace myself, I’m feeling ok, and my workday is half done. I do the same thing for a school workday. Most days, I wake up at 6:30 or 7, make coffee, tea, shower, change, and out the door. I teach 4 or 5 classes back to back, from 8-12:15. It seems like a grind at first. But I go into my first one and pull up a riddle, and they get going, and by the time they work it out, and we talk about it, we’re 25% done.

Then we discuss some topic, watch a short video, discuss it, do some specific lesson, discuss it, and then it’s the bell. I take a 10-minute break, sometimes 20, listen to some music, get some fresh air, or read something, and then it’s another 40-minute class. Rinse and repeat, by fractions, inch by inch, I crawl through the muck, and then it’ slum have time. I eat something nice, go home, change, go to the gym for 2-3 hours, and then get to work on some writing, play some video games, watch a movie or read a book, play some ukulele, spend time with Shaolin, and then it’s 12 and time to go to bed and get up again tomorrow. It’s about surrendering any notion of a grand plan and reveling in my breath and the situation in front of me, however trivial or mundane it might seem. Every moment is a form of meditation, and I find myself focussing on my breath and the relaxing joy of teaching simple concepts. There is a joy in simple tasks, a meditative quality that can bring peace and health back to my body. 

Pain is something we learn to love. We feel pain to know we are alive that our experience is real, whether from alcohol and drugs, the sting of a needle full of ink, or the pain and pleasure derived from a hard day or work or a strenuous workout at the gym. I find my first few minutes at the gym or in the pool unpleasant. There is a whiny quality to my subconscious, a lazy voice looking for escape and excuses, and I take pleasure in taming that voice, working through the lazy, whininess until it realizes I will not give up until I say I am done, and then the peace washes over me. I settle into the joy of swimming lap after lap, walking, or jogging KM after KM or doing set after set of weights as heavy as I can properly control. Once I settle into the joyous fraction of my life, the bliss of this moment, it is my with great pleasure that I work, exercise, perform, and follow my breath. At first, I loathed the hours away from my writing and solitude, now a day without exercise and strenuous workout feels like a lost day, a lazy day, and I work twice as hard when I return the following day. When I really don’t want to go, if I’m sore and lazy and it’s raining, and I’m comfortable, I do it to earn that coconut protein/recovery shake after. Plus, I just love fingerless gloves. Who doesn’t?

A songbird flew into my classroom when I was trying to lecture. It was green and yellow and sang beautifully and my students wouldn’t listen to a word I said until it flew off. I enjoyed our interaction, and laughed a lot at the disruption.

Sunday is a joyous day off. Last Sunday, we met some friends and played a little golf – it’s not my sport, but I realized how mindful my driving practice could be, for when I focus, I hit the ball well, I drive it far, I watch the little white ball sail high and far into the green grass, and I smile with satisfaction. When my mind wanders, I miss the ball entirely or hit it poorly, so golfing is very much meditation, and for that reason alone, I would do it again. Then we had a lovely brunch, over the river, and I watched the city with Elsa, my goddaughter, and the smartest four-year-old I know.

We must break danger into fractions too, in a pandemic, because considering the whole threat can also be intimidating or overwhelming. Instead, I look for opportunities to half and half again risks and dangers using simple precautions, or good actions, such as sleep, healthy food, zinc, vitamin D and exercise (makes the body strong), using an air purifier in public spaces like my classroom (reduces airborne particles that could make me ill), wearing a mask in poorly ventilated areas (such as subways), and avoiding concerts, bars, and clubs — it’s just not the time for me to be there (yet/anymore).  

From an article, I glanced at: “The virus can spread before symptoms appear, and does so most easily through five P’s: people in prolonged, poorly ventilated, protection-free proximity. ”  

I also have to realize that I am taking and have always taken a precautionary principle. While many of my assertions have been correct and eerily prescient (I feel lucky to have found some clever people to listen to when others didn’t), some of my precautions might be not necessary. I have to accept other people will take the official line, as behind in the data and science as it might be, and I have to be ok with that and hope for the best. For example, my mom went to an Anne and Gilbert concert in PEI. She told me they were very proud of their COVID measures – everyone sat six feet apart, and the show was on stage only and not interactive as it would have been usually, with actors dancing and playing with the audience. Great, but why six feet? That was the average distance of a respiratory droplet from speaking, back in the beginning. But what about the 200 experts that petitioned to ask the WHO to revise COVID-19 as airborne at least aerosolized because smaller virus particles can indeed travel and remain in the air for hours?

Well, Canada hasn’t really given that too much thought yet (it’s only been two months, I guess to give them time). So did everyone wear masks, I asked? No, no one wore masks. So a single sneeze from an audience member could infect the whole crowd. Hmm. And then you have actors singing on stage, down on the audience in a closed, small venue. Her lovely night out sounds like a nightmare I’d wake up screaming from — just too risky, too high a chance of spreading, but then I have to tell myself: it’s been relatively safe there compared to Toronto, or Montreal, and there’s a good chance none of the actors are sick — but to do this regularly would be inviting danger. But it’s her life, and I wish her the best, but I recognize going out is important for mental health. As it gets colder, I think many of us might be tempted to take more risks, but I do hope we can weight them out and cut them down – with fractions. If they’d used masks for the audience, HEPA filters in the audience, and a glass shield between the singers and the seated crowd, it would be much safer. Maybe they will next time.

Today, in my first class, all the kids were wearing masks, and I was told yesterday that a student in that class went to the hospital with chickenpox. They might have some infected students, and while I’ve had chickenpox before, and shingles too, I do really respect their care and measures to reduce viral spread. Many students are getting COVID-19, surprise surprise. I hope the idea of a flu+COVID combo is overhyped.

This thing is a killer if it gets you said Trump to Bob Woodward, in his new book rage— despite telling the public it would be over soon and was essentially no worse than the flu. That’s why the USA had more deaths than Canada, Mexico, the UK, France, and many other countries combined. So who are you gonna vote for, America? Death and lies or… Obama’s buddy? Too bad there wasn’t a real progressive name on the ballot. Democracy? If you say so.

A huge antimask protest happened in Montreal waving signs like “Oxygen is Essential” and “No Mask, No Vaccine, No 5G.” A pretty intelligent bunch, it seems. If your kids were driving and knew someone who said driving drunk without a seatbelt was their freedom and cutting other people’s seatbelts apart, how quickly would you make sure they smartened the Fk up? Antimasking is the new “driving drunk without seatbelts.”

Indonesia is forcing antimaskers (#maskholes) to dig graves for COVID victims. Some find it shocking; to me, it sounds like justice and possibly education. I realize I’m getting a little bitter, more than 200 days into this thing for people who can’t work on team “humans are gonna survive.” I feel like whether its greed, selfishness, idiocy, or ignorance, if you aren’t helping humans save the climate, stop the pandemic, and resurrect a more just society, you are definitely team #deadwood.

The rise in sea level from ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica matches the worst-case scenario, reports CBC from a recent study. This is no surprise to anyone who’s not hiding their heads in the sand—being patient, loving, and kind to those wasting our lives, our chance, and our opportunity. “I’m hearing too much recycle, compost, go vegan’ and not enough ‘100 corporations cause 71% of emissions.

Antimasker butthead Chris Sky was online bragging about a fake medical exemption note and flying with no mask on a KLM flight. I hope he gets banned and charged with fraud. Let’s see what happens.

Quebec is about to start fining anti maskers. About time. March would have been smart, nationwide. We are so lax when it comes to plague measures in the West. Then we wonder how things are so bad? In China, where we took things seriously, and now we have our freedom to go about our lives back, it just doesn’t make sense to do it any other way.  

In the news, the world has failed to meet all 20 of the climate change measures we hoped for in 2010, and the USA’s allies have an all-time low view of the country under Trump.

Life is just a dream, a meditation on fridge magnets, and the ego– I feel like I live inside someone’s mouth during a dentist appointment. This building renovation is dusty, loud, messy, disruptive, and even harmful to my decorations, knickknacks, and my home’s harmony in the short run. I came home and my Pisa tower magnet was broken in half, the Florence one survived but the magnet end fell off – the workers jerked my fridge around and trashed my magnets. I’m not about to fly back to Italy to get some more, so it made me mad for a moment. But things are just things. I can glue them back together, or get some new magnets, and, as the holes become pipes, and even as I have to move out my IKEA shelves above the sink to make way for a new stove and giant smoke sucking fan vent, I realize how messy and greasy the kitchen things were. Now I can clean them with loving care, one by one deconstructing the ‘civil society’ and the social contract of my home furnishings as stronger foundations and better systems slowly come together. I can see the big picture, how the new kitchen will be more functional, cleaner, more beautiful with a fresh coat of paint once all this is done, and it gives me hope that all this chaos is just part of our reinvention. We need to change, adapt, and regenerate, or we will die so that we will adapt, and we will be borne again in some way or another. For now, I’m drinking tea, on the side of a mountain, enjoying the comfort of my own breath.

 This year I’m taking great care to love myself, despite my mistakes, despite my faults, and just try to be the best me I can be as cheesy as that sounds. I loved getting crazy Cthulhu, FSM, and monster tattoos when I was in the Root Sellers and DJing, but as a teacher in China at a posh international boarding school, I usually wore long sleeves even when it was hot. But with my mug on TV all over the place for this COVID book and my media appearances, everyone has seen my tattoos anyway. Maybe it’s that, maybe it’s the fact that there are no foreign teachers really here anymore, or maybe it’s the fact that my friend Orlando gets a new tattoo every week and teaches teens, and they love him. I just feel comfortable to be myself now. Short sleeve shirt and tie? Sounds good. Long sleeve and rolled-up sleeves? Why not. I can do comfortable and professional and not feel I have to hide who I really am.