Several weeks ago, we were going to have a four-day intensive Zen retreat here at Zen Center Regensburg. It was our first major group retreat since the reopening “after” the pandemic – – the house would be full, with everyone crammed into whatever sleeping place would be available, including in the Dharma Room. We were very happy and excited to have public retreats happening again, and there was much work to do to receive all of the guests. One of the members of our ZCR core team here had recently worked as a supervisor for “Covid compliance“ at a job on movie and TV production sets. About one week before the retreat started, he asked me, “Sunim, what are we doing about testing the arrivals for the retreat?” My first instinct was to hesitate – – there was already so much work yet to do, and weren’t we in a period of relaxation and, well, reopening? But I knew his experience dealing with Covid compliance, he was keeping on top of the latest science and news about its rampage throughout society, so it didn’t take even a full second to agree with him. We immediately wrote a letter to all of the retreatants explicitly requiring them to test themselves before boarding their transportation, and sending us a photo of their test results. (Once you work in a law firm, it never leaves you: especially as an American, the matter of liability is also something that is always to be considered, especially when running a public facility like this.) We also required them to retest on arrival, and we encouraged them to test two days later, I believe.
Sure enough, the day of the retreat was to begin, we received a photo from one of the retreatants: a positive test! He took this test just right before boarding a long train ride down to Regensburg from somewhere north in Germany.
When we got this news, of course everyone was relieved -– we dodged an invisible bullet headed straight into our community. But then, as the Zen Center filled up and we entered our retreat, when things settled down into deeper reflection, I shuddered, several times, in the realization that, had we not received this advice and instituted this testing policy for the retreat, this person would have come into the retreat completely unawares. This would have been a total mega-clusterfuck of the highest order. Four days together, 24 hours a day, in a relatively enclosed space with little to no open window ventilation (it’s winter!), among 18 bodies who chant together, meditate together, eat together, and share small sleeping quarters together, this virus would have had a field day.
I was just speaking with another member of our Sangha today in Austria. He has been suffering from a respiratory bacterial infection for the last few days, and I called to check in on him. Hearing his story, I was shocked: Though he lives in a well-off city in Austria, one of the world’s most well-off societies, he couldn’t get tested for his respiratory symptoms at two hospitals that he went to. They simply turned him away, saying they were overloaded. The same with an attempt to find some diagnosis at a doctor’s clinic.Finally, he was admitted into some unknown clinic, and they could do tests to confirm that he had a bacterial infection. He urgently needed to get on antibiotics, fast.
The point of this is, he was delayed in getting a proper diagnosis -– and timely, effective treatment – – because the medical facilities were already filled up with people suffering from so many respiratory infections. Some of them were bacterial, but the most of them were Covid complications. And if they weren’t all directly Covid infections, experts are saying that the drastic increase in respiratory illnesses this year is caused by so many countless lungs having been ravaged, immune systems that have been tortured by the experience of Covid, in our too recent life.
This shit is still real, folks. Please do take it seriously. Our community is going to be especially vigilant, especially as our upcoming retreat (February 1-5) is already overbooked – just the fullest house of guests we have ever served. And there is one immunocompromised person among them!
I suggest you read this guy. Umair Haque is a brilliant economist and commentator on sociological trends, whose work is especially frank and clear and based on solid, evidence-based data. He published this recent essay on the subject of COVID‘s continuance, into today, and beyond.
[ excerpts — link to the full article is at the bottom ]
Read the rest of this article here on Haque’s Medium blog (and I highly recommend Haque’s insights on several other important pressing topics, which can be found on this blog):