The Synergy of Caring: Making a New Normal in Abnormal Times

The Synergy of Indifference

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Synergy is nature’s principle of wholeness. Although synergy means “working together”, the Greeks invented the word to describe its effect; the whole of viruses, cells, or people working together is always greater than the sum of individuals. Though synergy can make something more of our lives, it has a dark side. Covid-19 has emerged from an abnormal, disease promoting lifestyle that has unleashed a synergy of pandemics (syndemics). For over 50-years, diseased ways of living have gradually become our normal while slowly synergizing multiple pandemics; inactivity, obesity, and lifestyle diseases (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer). Slowly taking their toll on our health, these pandemics work together to synergize the faster, more disabling and deadly Covid-19 pandemic. And it does not end there.

Another pandemic is being synergized by the combination of Covid-19 and lifestyle diseases. Perhaps you know active individuals forced into inactivity by the Covid-19 isolation mandate; or those struggling to cope who have gained or lost an undesired amount of weight; or are drinking more alcohol, or are not getting their desired amount of sleep. If you are a parent, essential worker, young person, or person of color, the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic is likely making you more anxious or depressed. Overall, the Covid-19 pandemic is synergizing the lifestyle factors that heighten our vulnerability to its more severe and fatal outcomes

Our understanding of what causes diseased lifestyles is essential to stopping the synergy of diseases. In my 25-years of helping people develop healthy lifestyles, it still astonishes me how we are conditioned to be indifferent about our health. Though never explicitly stated, we live in an environment that covertly promotes indifference (e.g., through advertisements for processed foods, alcohol, and tobacco). The stealth of indifference affects us individually (crowding caring for our
bodies out of consciousness), socially, (divisiveness crowds togetherness out of consciousness), and globally, (i.e., the anthropocentric worldview of superiority and entitlement crowds gratitude out of consciousness). The indifference of superiority entitles us to subordinate our body, other people, life, and nature to serve our whims. Moreover, any subordinate challenging our superiority becomes an enemy to be conquered. 

Ironically, rather than conquering nature, Covid-19 suggests the anthropocentric destruction of polar caps, coral reefs, and numerous non-human species is backing us into the corner of extinction. Like most infectious diseases, Covid-19 is a zoonotic; a virus transmitted from animals to humans. If we keep invading rainforests and jungles; the home to animals that carry these viruses; these transmissions will continue and Covid-19 will not be the last or the worst of these zoonotics. As Inger Andersen, the United Nations environment chief tells us, Covid-19 is a warning shot from nature. And it is not the first one.

From 2015-2017 life expectancy in the United States declined. Although another drop is projected for 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this decline is primarily fueled by an epidemic of deaths due to suicides, opioid overdoses, and alcoholism. These “deaths of despair” are synergized by our environment of indifference as the social pain of its divisiveness becomes intolerable and eventually renders life meaningless. Now is the time to heed nature’s warnings and make the synergy of caring our norm.

The synergy of caring is our hope for a better future. Caring gives magnitude to one of nature’s strongest integrating forces; love; (i.e., the more you care, the more


you love). Like all forces, love and caring existed long before we invented words to describe them. Every universe, plant, each one of us and everything else that works

together to make itself whole in nature is held together by an integrative force like love (e.g., electromagnetism, or gravity). When we interact with our bodies, one another,

 

other living systems, or nature, it is the magnitude of our caring combined with the caring of others that compels us to stick together and work together. The synergy of caring


transforms us into something more than the sum of love exchanged between two people; the sum of work that goes into building a family, community and an environment; or

the sum of people working as the whole of humanity to overcome a pandemic.

 

 Ways to Make Caring Your Norm

Heighten Your Sensitivity to Indifference Disguised as Caring

Indifference is the poison of happiness especially when disguised as caring for exploitive purposes. Many advertisements exploit caring by linking the ideals of life

 

for which we long with the purchase of their product. Inherently toxic, these ideals are meant to inflict the pain of social comparison; make us “feel like a loser”; emotionally

 

compelling us to ponder how incomplete and unhappy our lives are without the advertised product. The illusion of caring is the antidote to the ideal’s venom; it fortifies the

 

false promise of restored wholeness and happiness when we purchase the advertised product. 

 

Critically assess caring in advertisements: 

  • What is the intent (your well-being and happiness or the well-being of those behind the advertisement)? 

  • Does the advertisement make sense: Can the product really deliver on its wholeness and happiness promises

 
Assess the Mutuality of Caring

Does the delicate balance between giving and receiving the best of care exist in your relationships? Assessing the mutuality of caring helps us to determine the wholeness status of our relationships. It can also inspire a sense of gratitude from knowing the caring that permeates our relationships is reciprocal. The combination of gratitude and caring cultivate a way of thinking that revolves around Nietzsche’s noble question: “how can I give back to life more than life has given me?” and manifests itself in noble actions. 

Reboot Your Senses

In times of despair, we see how impossible it is to live without joy. Now is the time to reboot, sharpen, and train our senses to be as ruthless as the indifference that stops us from caring for our bodies, one another, this world, and the healing powers of nature. We may never know why the sun rises in the east and sets in the west; why the sky is blue, flowers are always beautiful, birds sing, or that berry taste so “raspby” but we can sensually experience the joy they offer. Our technology is no substitute for sensually lingering in the happiness restored by involuntarily pondering how our life blends with all of life and nature. 

Build Up Your Wholeness Arsenal

Wholeness is the goal of life. As we strive to answer the question “How do you make yourself whole?”  We must beware of the black magic market peddling superficial, momentary feelings of being whole and alive that, in the absence of mutual caring, inevitably leave us fragmented and unhappy. The density of wholeness experiences is the synergistic product of our working together; participating in the day-to-day work of living our lives. The density of any wholeness experience (e.g., good nourishment, exercise; a nature binge, gardening; or the comradery of community) is commensurate to the caring that synergizes our working relationship with our bodies, other people, living systems and nature. To know wholeness, is to know health and happiness. To learn about making yourself whole, healthy, and happy contact salmada@hsichicago.org.