Agency in the Age of Coronavirus

Is everything going to be okay?

That depends.

If we mean, “Is everything going to be the way it was and the way I expected it to be?” then the answer is no. The answer to that question is always no, it always has been.

If we mean, “Is everything going to be the way it is going to be?” then the answer is yes. Of course. If we define whatever happens as okay, then everything will be.

Given that everything is going to be the way it’s going to be, we’re left with an actually useful and productive question instead: “What are you going to do about it?”

Seth Godin, 3/24/20 blog, second week of social quarantine.

This series of pages is about fear and a powerful antidote that seems to have escaped us. By way of that all-important antidote, all kinds of solutions become available for overcoming Covid 19, different from ones presented as our only hope. If you want to skip straight to the nuts and bolts, feel free.

“Everything will be the way it’s going to be.” The current turn of events is extra hard for the realists of the world, though no sane person would dare to not be a realist. A particular shared reality is our favored measure of sanity, and nobody much likes the idea of being insane! However, the whole Covid 19 crisis bears marks of categorical insanity, that being a word related to the French word for health (sanité). Has the current insanity seized us because our criteria for sanity are unhealthy? Perhaps there is no way around asking such a question if the insanity, and the crisis of physical health, are to be reversed.

The widely accepted reality, of course, is that Covid 19 is poised to kill millions. The virus is adept at spreading and medical science has no specific cure for it. Many wouldn’t survive its running its course, and the only solution medical science currently has for a badly sickened person is to put them on a respirator.  Even this treatment does not save a high percentage of its recipients from death, and itself can bear alarming health consequences.  No one knows how long we will need to socially isolate to permanently contain the virus, but “realistically” we have few other containment strategies right now. Lost jobs and a recession or depression are just the costs of survival, according to the realist’s view.

The poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote, “The universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of stories.” Many scientists represent that they do their work outside of the realm of stories, even while others produce experimental results that verify Rukeyser’s intuition.

With every story, choices have been made from many  possibilities as to how it should unfold. Thousands of details have not made the cut, details that might be especially relevant for some purpose. The typical story about the coronavirus, that has us so afraid, is no different.

And this brings me to “vitamin A.” I will not primarily write of that vitamin we get from eating various orange fruits and vegetables, shown to strengthen the immune system (as relevant as that really is to the current situation!). Right now, I am more interested in a nutrient we seem to lack more and more, a lack that is cutting off our life blood as a species. That “nutrient” is Agency, a choice to chart one’s own course with the benefit of all human faculties, through a process involving reflection.

When we are afraid, we are unlikely to be reflecting, biologically speaking. Our body’s energies are devoted to the panicking which evolution has taught us is part and parcel of the process of sending blood to the extremities, which then whisk us away from danger. Or at least they did in prehistoric times. That blood, when you are panicking, is not feeding your brain or your gut. It is not feeding your sanité or your sanity.

But what if we were to deliberately place our attention on the space between the stars, so to speak? Or, somewhat less poetically, the information missing from the stories presented as if fact? Might we be finding completely different solutions?

Godin asks, “Is everything going to be the way I expected it to be?” He gives the realist’s correct answer: No! This is an acknowledgment that we appear to have lost all semblance of control of our destiny. (Not sure about the “always has been” clause, but I’ll set that aside as a different topic.) “Is everything going to be the way it is going to be?” That’s just a matter of semantics. Of course it is, silly. And then, the golden part. “What are you going to do about it?” This is about agency, that antagonist of helplessness and victimhood which is the ultimate ace in the hole.

I am going to present a series of scientifically proven antidotes for threats to human health of many kinds over the course of history and across cultures.  I believe these will apply to Covid 19 as well. These solutions favor sanité and sanity equally, treating them as two sides of a coin. You can stop flipping through any time you think what I am writing is cracked, and that is your privilege as a thinking person applying a personal sense of discernment. You should just remain aware that the scientists whose work validates these insights used all proper protocols: careful measurements subjected to double blind testing, control groups, peer review, study replication, etc.. The testimony of the many who have benefited from these approaches to healing, often as a last resort, count for something as well.

Just so you know, stepping into agency is definitely going to involve a reckoning with the role of Big Pharma in your life.  (And no, I’m not an anti-vaxxer.) Pharmaceutical companies are inconvenienced by individual agency. It is in their financial interest that you believe that your body isn’t up for the challenges of living out a healthy life. Given this non-controversial reality, you will need to decide how much you want to accept their influence, and possibly make some fundamental changes to support your choice.  Fail to decide, and I am pretty sure that a decision will be made for you.

I don’t write as a Democrat or a Republican, or the member of any religious or other organization.  Fear is a form of great suffering for everyone, and I mostly want to engage your sense of possibility for moving beyond it. In an environment that encourages the opposite, I write with the hope that you will chart a healthy, life-affirming course, in any and every way you feel drawn.

The following pages are arranged according to how well they align with our cultural thought patterns, in descending order. All are supported by plenty of valid scientific research. You are free to get off of this ride whenever you wish.

  1. Nutrition and Agency
  2. Stress and Agency
  3. Genes, Destiny, and Agency
  4. Placebos, Nocebos, and Destiny
  5. Cancer Remission and the Power of Agency
  6. Perception and Agency
  7. Energy, Covid 19, and Agency
  8. The Mind and Other Minds
  9. Fragmentation and Wholeness


Angell, Reading, et al. The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About it. Random House, 2005.

Petersen, Melody. Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs. Sarah Crighton, 2010.