Cities shutting down.
Frantic people buying toilet paper, of all things.
In the middle of all this uncertainty, a dear friend of mine has a new concern: he thinks he’s contracted HIV.
The test results were due yesterday, but they weren’t available yet. Although this is probably due to the fact of a pandemic-overworked medical staff, it’s still pretty harrowing. The upshot is that we’ve been spending more time than usual on the phone.
My friend is frustrated with himself. So much so that he’s questioning whether he wants to remain here in his human form. He wonders if his time is just up. Most of all, underneath any of these emotions, he’s scared. He has every right to be. It’s certainly a serious situation.
All this has made him quite depressed, this man who is one of the smartest men I know. More than that, he’s like a brother to me. We’ve been through a lot together and have a soulful connection. Through our many deep conversations, his incredible mind has been a source of wonder and inspiration. A true seeker, he’s actually lived at retreat centers. He’s familiar with all the ways we attempt to be conscious and present. His communication skills are impeccable.
But he’s not always wise, as is the case with so many of us. Me included.
The bottom line is that this good man made a poor decision (or arguably a group of them of a certain type). The result is that his fantastic mind is now kindled to blaze into an inferno of “what ifs” at the slightest provocation. It’s not as available as it recently was because of this new concern for his own mortal health. This is coming at a time when so many things in our cultural lives are already revealing their natures to be less like bedrock, more like sandstone. Or maybe just sand.
As if any of us need one more reason to spin out these days, my buddy has a whopper.
As we were talking yesterday, exploring all these questions, a passage to which I had just listened on an audiobook came to mind. The passage was a conversation between two men who were deeply dedicated to the idea of excellence and had ordered their lives to correspond to their deepest values, almost without flaw. The subject they were discussing had to do with sexuality and its relationship to one’s personal principles and ideas of self-worth.
As I was talking to my friend, the conversation in the book came to my mind. I recognized this remembrance as a “hit.” It had that “flavor” that many of you know. A certain frequency. So, I brought it up to him. Referring to the fact that there is so much uncertainty, I advised him to get back in touch with his deepest values as a source of grounding.
“Get a journal,” I told him. “Then get still and determine your six main values. Reacquaint yourself with them, and realign.”
He was very grateful for the advice. He said it was exactly what he needed, confirming to me the veracity of the inspiration I’d experienced. We also talked about staying present and not catastrophizing. After all, we don’t know anything just yet. This all may be a scare. There is no diagnosis at this point. He does have symptoms of infection, but those symptoms are common of many ailments, including COVID-19. He’s going to be tested for that, too.
The point of all of this is two-fold; to remind myself and anyone reading it that whether we know them or not, we always act according to our values or principles. Whenever I have interactions like these, especially when any kind of hit is involved, I always apply it to myself as well. Looking within, I wonder what my own six main values are. It occurs to me that I can’t easily name them. I, for one, get so caught up in being present, non-judgmental, and accepting of what life brings that I’m currently less-than-clear about the things I really value. These days I’m more apt to “go with the flow,” rather than “brawl for it all.” I used to consider myself a fighter. But what you do when you no longer wish to fight? I can name things I would like to say I value, certainly. Love, compassion, gratitude, honesty… But do I consciously align my life with them? Are these too broad? Am I willing to “fight” for them?
These are good questions to ask. Maybe it’s like this for you, too. Maybe this is a common condition for people, especially when the religion of youth gives way to a more generalized spirituality. Sometimes it’s easy to throw out the Value Baby with the Dogma Bathwater, isn’t it?
In the end, I think it’s healthy to want my life to reflect known principles and values, not unknown ones. I’m going to meditate on this, beginning today. I’ll write things like this essay. I’ll journal, and might even do some fire ceremonies over the next couple weeks. I may make another personal constitution. This is something I had about a decade ago that was very helpful to me. Why did I quit using it?
I guess we all stray sometimes from what is important to us. It’s a very human situation. Call it distraction, whatever. The point isn’t to make it “wrong” to be forgetful of these things. Nor is it “wrong” to be distracted.
Rather, if this is our condition, we do what we do on the meditation cushion: we see what’s going on and literally come back to the breath, to the present. Because, as we know, the present is the only place we can access our personal power. But maybe for the human mind, it’s easier to come back to something we know. Being conversant with our personal values can give our minds an address from which to work. If we can get our wild horses into a corral, even if they remain wild, at least they’re not running all over tarnation. The point is that it’s probably good to have a place, a psychic address, where lives a sense of our holiest values. From this home (or corral), we can make mindful decisions in a conscious manner.
That can make all the difference when prepping for, or moving through, the apocalypse.
I have a gut feeling that my friend is not infected with HIV. I’m really just waiting for confirmation. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to come today, maybe tomorrow. And when it does, I am going to be on the phone with my friend sharing tears of relief. And then we’re going to make a date, my buddy and I. We’re going to have a long talk about our principles and how to implement them. We’ll chat about the sacred nature of life. Probably about sexuality, too, and being safe in that realm. We’re going to become reacquainted with what we’re doing, both as individuals and as friends, here in this sacred human mortality.
There’s a great book called, “Love In A Time of Cholera.” Maybe this is love in a time of Covid. And HIV. And martial law. What a time to be alive.
And alive to our soulful values.
PS: My friend just called. The tests were negative!