The Gift of New Possibilities after Coronavirus

By Rabbi Michael Lerner, special for

The Coronavirus pandemic has revealed the deep spiritual crisis in our world and given us this moment to deal with it. Will we come out of this period of social distancing by feeling that we are surrounded by selfish people who have absorbed the capitalist value of “looking out for number one,” hoarding the toilet paper and healthy food, medications, face masks and gloves and other consumer items—meanwhile depriving others of what they need?

Or will we focus globally and in the U.S. on the hundreds of thousands of doctors and nurses and others who risking their lives to help those who are or may be afflicted by the coronavirus, people they don’t know.

It should be no surprise if tens of millions of Americans feel that their experience of isolation and social media on each other’s selfishness taught them to put their own interests above everyone else, because they will be returning to a work world in which looking out for number one is in fact what gets most rewarded.

We should not let the ethos of selfishness win out.

New Possibilities of Care in the Time of Coronavirus

We need to use the weeks and months ahead to encourage our fellow Americans to join with each other to embrace a totally different way of organizing our society—Revolutionary Love in which we build a caring society—caring for each other, and caring for the earth. Inspired by the prophets of ancient Israel, by Jesus, Gandhi, Sister Joan Chittister, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, the Sufis, Bell Hooks, Riane Eisler, Carol Gilligan and so many other secular humanists and religious progressives, there is reason to believe that many people can can respond to a different vision if they see enough people rallying around the same vision.

The first step is to insist that our society embrace a “New Bottom Line.” Instead of judging every aspect of our lives together by how much money, wealth or power gets accumulated, we should judge our economy, our corporations, our government policies, our legal system, our educational system, our cultural systems and our own personal behavior to be rational, productive, and efficient to the extent they maximize our capacities to be loving and generous, kind and forgiving, caring for each other and caring for the earth, joyous and compassionate, promoting environmental sanity and social justice, ethical behavior and spiritual depth, treating others as manifestations of the sacred rather than valuing them to the extent that they are actually or potentially useful to us, and responding to Earth and the larger universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement (rather than simply as something that can be turned into a commodity to make a profit.)

 Almost every progressive movement holds these values, but sadly never articulates them publicly. That is part of what we can do through zoom and social media and through everyone on your personal email lists.

For the 98% who will survive coronavirus, the opportunity to be away from oppressive or alienating or meaningless work, the opportunity to be with our families who normally don’t get enough of our time, the opportunity to think about our own inner life, our soul, the short time that we as humans have before we die, can open up deep questions about whether we want to return to the same lives we had before this plague.

Based on the research the Institute for LABOR AND MENTAL HEALTH did with American middle income workers and families, we know that there is a deep pain in the lives of many Americans.

People hunger for a life in which they feel respected, cared for by others, and connected to some higher meaning for their lives beyond the accumulation of money or power. Seeing no way to get this, many try to bury the pain of this great deprivation by turning to drugs, alcohol, embracing extremist versions of right wing politics or religion.

A Progressive Response to Troubled Times

A progressive movement that talked about love and caring and embodied that in its daily activities could provide a healthy alternative and alleviate much of this suffering.

We can do this now by building a movement for love and justice that calls for a New Bottom.

Now is the time for us to act, precisely at the moment when we ourselves, our friends and neighbors have been ripped from our immersion in “business as usual.” Send this, please, to everyone you can reach on zoom or email or social media, and help them see what a great opportunity this pandemic is giving us—if we choose to use it that way.

In the final analysis, it is our capacity for love, hope and generosity that will help us heal from the fears that so many of us have experienced these past weeks.


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Topic: COVID 19 Emergency Working Group
Time: Mar 27, 2020 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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About the author: Rabbi Michael Lerner is the editor of Tikkun and chair of the interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives. His vision is spelled out his newest book Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World.

Breaking the Chain of COVID-19 Transmission Begins at Home

Isolation of Mild Cases Can Save Lives by Breaking the Chain of COVID-19

In recent days, the rhetoric around the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted, from this being a problem that will solve itself to urgent calls to “flatten the curve.” That is, save as many lives as possibly by slowing the uptick of new infections to prevent health systems from becoming overwhelmed over a short period.

In the short history of this crisis, only two countries have successfully flattened the curve of new infections, thus breaking the chain of COVID-19: South Korea and China. Because they were prepared to take extreme measures that other countries are still not courageous enough to do.

One of those steps was to dramatically expand free testing and refine procedures for reporting new cases. The other key strategy was to isolate people with mild COVID-19 illness cases in hotels and dormitories instead of sending those sick and infected people back into shared accommodations or their family homes.

Household transmission is very difficult to prevent, and in multigenerational living situations, it threatens those populations most likely to die from the virus. Breaking the chain of household transmission is key, according to the World Health Organization. Isolation of infected people is one leg of a three-legged stool that also includes testing all suspected cases and properly quarantining close contacts.

Rapid Testing, Isolation Key to Breaking the Chain of COVID-19

Isolation of mild cases is a hard sell for families, friends and partners.

At a time of stress and uncertainty, we want to be with our loved ones. Isolating alone in an unfamiliar place can be painful, lonely and boring, especially if your symptoms are mild. You may even feel fine. But it is a critical step for interrupting transmission and ultimately saving lives.

Isolation seems to be working in South Korea and China, where COVID-19 transmission rates are declining. In Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, no new daily infections were reported for the first time.

Here in the U.S., we are weeks behind–in both the curve of the outbreak and the response. Cases of COVID-19 are about to surpass South Korea, and our rate of new infections now closely follows countries where thousands have already died from the virus. Testing is still not universally available, as both anecdotes and data have shown.

Here in the USA, aggressive isolation of mild cases is something we can do right now. It’s tough, but temporary.  And it’s logistically feasible and affordable.

People with mild cases can be housed comfortably in university dormitories, hotels, or other available locations currently sitting empty.  Both public and private universities, and potentially the hospitality industry, could contribute to this effort while also freeing up urgently needed medical resources to be deployed for those at greatest risk. Leaders at all levels of government should immediately develop plans to launch this strategy as fast as possible.

We have the means, but do we have the will? Now is the time to be courageous. And courage requires both sacrifice and optimism, as I explained in my recent prescription for the troubled times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We must believe in the best of ourselves as humans and members of a shared society. And that means believing that the hardest, most counterintuitive human response—going it alone­—will ultimately be the best choice for saving as many lives as possible.


Are you ready for Waging Optimism? Here’s my prescription for creating a national movement of grassroots change that can effectively tackle the significant challenges we face, from the coronavirus to climate and to our broken democracy. Get your copy for a limited time for just .99 by clicking here. Use the share buttons to invite others to join you in an optimism approach to these troubled time.

My prescription for health in a time of coronavirus

In this unprecedented global health crisis, information is an antidote to panic. Your health and safety in a time of coronavirus will be improved by using proper information for proper steps of action.

By understanding the changes coming within our communities, states, and country, we can act together in solidarity even as we practice acts of kindness and responsibility like social distancing, work from home, canceling events and other significant changes to our way of life.

I’m an epidemiologist. I once founded and served as the Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance that helped build the cross-partisan political will to combat the global AIDS pandemic. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, we all were able to work together to forever alter the course of this deadly disease.

We can and will do it again. Now. Here’s my prescription for health in these troubled times of the coronavirus.

coronavirus prescription

RX: health in a time of coronavirus

  1. Take a healthy dose of optimism three times a day. Refills are unlimited. Based on a lifetime of experience working on crises just like this, I can tell you, it starts with one of the hardest, but most critical steps. It starts with Waging Optimism. I’m an unapologetic optimist. I’ve seen the power of my mindset at work. It’s the match the ignites of seismic change for good. My guide to Waging Optimism is here and can support you to be courageous and make a commitment for under a dollar.
  2. Waging Justice once a day: We don’t have to sit back, afraid and do nothing. We don’t have to binge Netflix. We can use our time to take action by Waging Justice for all. Every day we can exercise our rights and responsibilities as Americans. This is how easy it is: Contact your government leaders and legislators in Congress, in your State, and in your local governments , right now in less than a minute and demand they 1) Protect the People, 2) Test the People and 3) Heal the People during this coronavirus pandemic. Click here
  3. Waging Love daily: Humans are social animals. We need each other. At a time of pandemic we may easily slip into fear, isolation, and blame. Instead let’s transform this destructive approach that worsens our problems (and empties shelves of toilet paper from local stores!).  Please reach out to your friends and families and send messages of love and hope. Share your optimism with others who may be afraid. Urge others to join you in action online. Spread love far and wide. Post this and tag me @drpaulzeitz so I can send you back a heart emoji! Every little action beats back the fear that threatens us all.

A movement of systemic change

I’ve dedicated my career to catalyzing large-scale movements. I launched Build a Movement 2020 with the idea of giving back power and control to “we the people,” as  our very existence at stake. It was not an accident that we launched with five pillars, three of which are at play today, right now, this instance to threaten our existence: climate restoration, restoring democracy and health for all. 

Our problems are inexorably linked. Today it’s a coronavirus, but it’s also the unprecedented warming of the Arctic and our broken democracy that has failed to protect and defend our lives and our survival.   We need to win the battle against the coronavirus, we need to ensure the survival of humanity by restoring the climate, and we need to establish authentic democracy here in America. 

We are living in a transformative moment in human history. You are a part of it. We are the solution. Together we can heal America. Can you join us? Simply text BAM2020 to 52886 and take a ten-second pledge to Waging Justice, Waging Optimism and Waging Love and ensure the survival of humanity. 

We can do this. We will. But it starts with a start. A text. A pledge. A commitment. An act. It starts now. It starts now-NOW!