March 30, 2020

Spring Break


By Kenneth Ring, Ph.D.

Are you ready for a break from stories about the corona virus? Well, if so, then please join me for a while on my own spring break.

Do you remember when we were kids and just returning to school in the fall after a summer of delightful school-free frolics and our teacher would ask us to stand in front of the class to tell our restless classmates "how we spent our summer vacation?" No? Well, frankly neither do I. Maybe this is just a bit of grammar school folklore, but in any case I can use it as a template to tell you what I’ve been doing on my spring break from the virus.

For one thing, I've been reading the novels and short stories of Mark Helprin. Now please pay attention. Of course, blogs are by nature ephemeral (as am I) and are soon forgotten (as I will be), but I am about to tell you something important that, if you are a reader of novels, you will have cause to thank me for in years to come.

A Soldier of the Great War
I have been reading novels for more than seventy years, and the greatest novel I have ever read (have you marked these italics?) is Helprin’s 860-page masterpiece, A Soldier of the Great War, which is his War and Peace. I’ve read a number of his other books as well, and they are all superbly crafted works of art. Indeed his writing routinely elicits the most extravagant but wholly deserved praise from critics and readers alike. Just last night, I was reading one of the marvelous stories in one of his collections of short fiction in a book entitled The Pacific. This one, simply called "Monday," caused me to choke up and become teary-eyed at the end. And I’m a guy (just in case you had noticed)! The sheer beauty of his writing as well as the emotional power of Helprin's writing will do that do you.

The Pacific
Well, had I time and you patience, I could write reams about Helprin -- and about his politics, which is another matter -- but perhaps I have already said enough to intrigue you. If so, I invite you to check him out. After all, unless you are having to mind your kids or dealing with the hardship of illness, you may have time on your hands now. If that’s the case, why not put your hands to good use and deploy your eyes at the same time in reading one of Helprin's books?

Another thing I’ve been doing is avoiding the news. Ah, the pleasures of tuning out! But the other night my girlfriend Lauren found herself raptly watching PBS's The News Hour while I was busy doing the equivalent of filing my Howard Hughes-like nails. Naturally, afterward I was impelled to launch into another one of my tedious diatribes about the toxicity of our virus-laden news feeds that only wants to make you consider killing yourself before the virus gets to you. But shortly thereafter, I was struck not by lightening, and, thank heaven, not by the virus, but by a serendipitous synchronicity, which will soon be revealed.

Anita Moorjani is a now well-known NDEr, author and self-help guru. It was her first book, Dying to Be Me, which brought her to my attention and eventually to my home where I was lucky to spend four hours with her and her husband, Danny, mostly laughing, as I recall. Anita is an absolutely delightful person and has now amassed a large and devoted following. In that connection, she sends out periodic newsletters to her fanship among whom I include myself. Anyway, not long after I had vented my spleen to Lauren, I found one of Anita's newsletters on my computer and what did I find from this sage woman? Simply this passage:

Everything feels very calm and peaceful both in my home and outside, however, the minute you turn on the news, every channel is reporting the same thing. And the news at the moment has all the essential components to raise our anxiety levels to the point of making us feel like we are fighting for our lives. I have some friends who are news junkies, and their stress levels are through the roof right now. When you are constantly bombarded with doom and gloom news and your stress levels go through the roof, it puts your body into "fight or flight". This means that your body goes into survival mode, and when it does that, your immune system is not at its best.
Well said, Anita! Thank you. So if Lauren won’t listen to me, maybe she will pay heed to Anita. Maybe you will, too.

Of course, you don’t have to be an NDEr to realize that listening to the news is bad ju-ju for the soul, but one of the interesting things about NDErs is that after their close encounter with death, many of them become psychic, often to an uncanny extent as my research and that of others have revealed. One of the ways their psychic gifts may manifest is in precognitive visions -- apparently seeing an event before it actually occurs. For example, several NDErs reported that they had foreknowledge of the Space Shuttle Challenger before it exploded in 1986.

Which brings us to another NDEr, Sylvia Browne. But I never knew Sylvia, who died in 2013. Indeed, despite the fact that she wrote over forty books and was a very well known if controversial psychic, appearing on many television shows during her life, I had never even heard of her until this year, and you will soon understand why. The reason will, I’m afraid, bring us back to the corona virus and bring our brief spring break to an astonishing end.

You see, nearly twelve years ago, Sylvia foresaw the corona virus. You don’t believe it? Neither did I at first, but read on.

In 2008, Sylvia Browne wrote a book called End of Days. In that book she predicted:
"In around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes, and resisting all known treatments."
Weird, eh?

She also made some other seemingly startlingly accurate or at least plausible predictions for this same time including the crash of the stock market and, most alarming of all, this one:
"The year 2020 will mark the end of the U.S. presidency and the executive branch of the government."
Not to get too political, but of course people have wondered how our pandemic might affect the election and whether if things should really spin out of control, President Trump might invoke martial law or other extreme measures that could imperil our government. At this point, the future is as uncertain as is the course of the corona pandemic itself.

But let's not get carried away on the wings of wild speculation. For one thing, like all psychics, Sylvia Browne’s predictions were often wrong, sometimes spectacularly so. In her lifetime, she was a highly controversial figure. And even what she did have to say about the course of the pandemic itself should give us pause because she also added this to her prediction:
"Almost more baffling than the illness itself will be the fact that it will suddenly vanish as quickly as it arrived, attack again ten years later, and then disappear completely."
Alas, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all as far as the course of this pandemic is concerned, but if, against all odds, Sylvia should prove right about this as well, what would we think then?

A Brief Addendum


Lest you think from my remarks on the dangers of exposing oneself to the news about the virus that I insulate myself from it, you couldn’t be more wrong. Of course, I follow the news as much as I need to. I am very well aware that almost 150,000 Americans have contracted the virus, that thousands in the U.S. have already died and that perhaps as many as 200,000 here will die of this disease. And that many thousand throughout the world have died and perhaps three quarter of a million of the earth’s population have been sickened. So much for the stats thus far. And they will get worse.

And then there are the thousands of health care workers on the front lines and in the trenches of this horrible war whose health is imperiled, the hospitals stretched beyond capacity, the massive number of people are suffering, including some friends of my own. And so on into the dark night. I have heard these heart-sickening stories and like everyone I am anguished by them.

But I figure we all know that. I don’t think you need to read more blogs about this. Distraction, entertainment, humor, music, reading, etc., are also weapons we can deploy in our fight against this remorseless enemy. We need to keep our bodies safe, of course, but we also keep to keep our spirits up. Which is why for the most part you won’t find me mentioning all the bad news in my blogs. Just so you know...

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