Suddenly, today, I panicked about life inching back toward “normal.” I don’t want to travel endlessly for work. I don’t want my weekends to be over-committed with activities. I don’t want to miss bedtime with my kid. I don’t want to wear blazers — or, hell, even shoes.
-Emily Ramshaw, Co-founder & CEO 19th News.
For many of us the prospect of being is terrifying and so we go on saying, “I’m good” when in fact we are struggling or overwhelmed. This allegiance to the social convention that everything is okay is fatiguing and prevents us from receiving care and building deep connections with others. David Whyte, a Poet, writes, “in refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.”
-Ryan Redman, The Flourish Foundation
NEW: ‘The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now states explicitly — in large, bold lettering — that airborne virus can be inhaled even when one is more than six feet away from an infected individual. “If you’re in a poorly ventilated environment, virus is going to build up in the air, and everyone who’s in that room is going to be exposed.” [Friday, May 7th]
Fears Covid anxiety syndrome could stop people reintegrating
Natalie Grover Science correspondent
Scientists have expressed concern that residual anxiety over coronavirus may have led some people to develop compulsive hygiene habits that could prevent them from reintegrating into the outside world, even though Covid hospitalisations and deaths in the UK are coming down.
The concept of “Covid anxiety syndrome” was first theorised by professors last year, when Ana Nikčević, of Kingston University, and Marcantonio Spada, at London South Bank University, noticed people were developing a particular set of traits in response to Covid.
The anxiety syndrome is characterised by compulsively checking for symptoms of Covid, avoidance of public places, and obsessive cleaning, a pattern of “maladaptive behaviours” adopted when the pandemic started. Now researchers have raised the alarm that the obsessive worrying and threat avoidance, including being unwilling to take public transport or bleaching your home for hours, will not subside easily, even as Covid is controlled.
“Fear is normal. You and I are supposed to fear the virus because it’s dangerous. The difference, however, in terms of developing a psychopathological response is whether you end up behaving in … overly safe ways that lock you into the fear,” said Spada. “My expectation is we’re going to have … chunks of the population that are avoiding re-engagement and constantly worrying about the virus for months to come, whether they are vaccinated or not.”
Dr Giovanni Mansueto, of the University of Florence, is investigating the syndrome in Italy and says he has seen some evidence of it in his clinical practice. It was important not only to identify the syndrome but to find ways to treat and prevent it, he said, “otherwise, this could be a big problem”.
Even after being fully vaccinated, many still wrestle with a fear of catching Covid
“I don’t want to be sitting in a movie theater with ‘patient zero’ of a variant that bucks the vaccine.”
By Elizabeth Chuck
Since the start of the pandemic, Kit Breshears has been terrified of catching the coronavirus. Getting vaccinated did not magically change that.
For the past 13 months, Breshears, 44, of Buffalo, Minnesota, has not stepped foot inside a store or restaurant, not even to pick up a takeout meal. Any visits with family and friends have been over Zoom.
When he received his second Covid-19 shot earlier this month, he felt relief, he said — but with the pandemic still ongoing, he has found it impossible to turn off his anxiety.
“My fear is that enough people are not going to get vaccinated, or they’re not going to get vaccinated in a timely fashion, and we end up getting a horrible variant that puts us right back to where we are,” Breshears, a communications director at a local university, said. “I don’t want to be sitting in a movie theater with ‘patient zero’ of a variant that bucks the vaccine.”
With more than 93 million people, or more than a quarter of America, fully vaccinated, two camps have emerged: those making up for lost time in the form of house parties, happy hours and travel, and those who cannot shake the fear that they may still get the coronavirus.
Breshears is far from the only one in the latter category. A survey released last month by the American Psychological Association found that 48 percent of adults who have been vaccinated said they felt “uneasy” about returning to in-person interactions once the pandemic is over.
For the time being, some timidness is a good thing, public health experts say.
“We’re still involved in the disease containment phase of the pandemic,” said Tener Goodwin Veenema, a professor and visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Fully vaccinated individuals should feel confident in the protection they have received, she said, but should still wear their masks in public and avoid big groups of unmasked people.
Nonetheless, for healthy, fully vaccinated people, the fear of catching Covid-19 should not be paralyzing, said Vaile Wright, a clinical psychologist and the senior director of health care innovation at the American Psychological Association.
“With previous pandemics, like SARS and Ebola, we have seen agoraphobia,” she said, referring to the anxiety disorder in which people fear certain situations so much that they may not leave their homes. “At the end of the day, if you’re really, really struggling, then it’s time to seek out some professional help.”
“There is going to be this lingering sense of anxiety going forward, because uncertainty still remains.”
“Recognize that the other person might just not be where you’re at yet, and that doesn’t make them wrong,” Wright said.
If you are feeling anxious about doing things that fall within safe CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated people, Wright suggests identifying small steps that you can take.
“There are people who haven’t gone to the grocery store in a year. Grocery stores are pretty safe if you’re wearing masks, so maybe that’s step one,” she said. “And then maybe move up to lunch outside with a friend who is also fully vaccinated.”
How an extroverted introvert like myself manages post-pandemic anxiety
In 2019, I wrote this piece about being an extroverted introvert. Back then, I found myself toeing the line when it came to my tendencies and preferred ways to socialize. More than two million people read it, so it seemed as if others could relate.
But two years and one pandemic later, and I’ve found myself more on the introverted side of the fence.
Why it matters: The pandemic has changed all of us in some way, whether we picked up a new hobby, strengthened or lost friendships, or got clarity on our future plans.
- These shifts will only become more apparent as the world starts to reopen.
The bright side: The past year has allowed me to adopt a slower-paced lifestyle filled with more intentional connections and commitments. It’s felt like the perfect way to recharge my introvert batteries without getting hit with a case of FOMO at every turn, and I don’t want to immediately jump back into my full-tilt, non-stop schedule.
But, as more of us get vaccinated and normal life is in sight, I’m struggling with mixed feelings.
The state of play: First and foremost, I’m feeling relief on so many levels. That goes without saying.
I’m feeling excited about getting to enjoy my favorite pre-pandemic activities again: meeting friends on the patio at NoDa Company Store, spontaneously popping into Paper Skyscraper between meetings, date nights out with my husband.
Yes, but: Coupled with my relief and excitement comes anxiety.
I feel out of practice when it comes to socializing with people I haven’t seen in a while, particularly in large groups. I’ve gotten used to my small “quarantine pod,” and I’m anxious about how I’ll re-develop those socializing muscles.
I’ve loved not feeling obligated to pack my schedule full until I’m scrambling to play catch-up on Sunday evenings.
There’s also a part of me that wonders if living through a pandemic will leave me permanently focused on health issues. You don’t realize how germy public spaces are until you spend a year obsessing about it, and I wonder if I’ll be able to shut that part of my brain off.
Tips for coping:
If you’re like me and are experiencing a plethora of feelings as we prepare to re-enter the real world, Leah Finch, a licensed clinical mental health counselor and owner of Goldfinch Counseling and Coaching, has some tips:
(1) Know that it’s OK to feel this way: “I think the most helpful thing is an acknowledgment that this is all so normal. It’s not just you. You’re not an anxious person, you’re a person who is experiencing normal and natural worries,” Finch says.
(2) Rely on the coping mechanisms you’ve developed: We’ve all had to find new ways to soothe ourselves during a stressful year, and Finch says it’s important to continue to utilize these strategies as we reacquaint ourselves with our pre-COVID lives.
- “That may be taking a few deep breaths or doing some stretches to calm the body and the mind.”
(3) Don’t focus on eliminating anxiety completely: Unfortunately, if your end goal is to make your anxiety totally disappear forever, you’ll only end up frustrated, Finch says. Everyone faces the occasional bout of anxiety. It’s part of being human.
- But if this anxiety impedes your ability to enjoy life, Finch recommends asking yourself, “Are these thoughts helping or hurting me?’” This can help you identify detrimental patterns so you can get out of that unproductive thought loop.
(4) Mental health isn’t linear: If you’re a person who normally has your anxiety well-managed, finding yourself facing anxious thought patterns again can be discouraging. You might fear that you’re regressing or that your work has gone to waste.
- “Remind yourself that mental health isn’t linear. It’s a journey,” Finch says. “If you’re experiencing symptoms, know that you’re not regressing, you’re just learning how to relate to your anxiety in new ways. You are not your anxiety. It doesn’t have control over you.”
(5) Soak in the moments when you’re feeling good: “The flip side of acknowledging that anxiety is normal is being really mindful of moments where you’re not feeling anxious and allowing yourself to experience that moment. What does your body feel like? What are your sensations?” Finch says.
Cut each other some slack as we head back into the world.
We’ve just been through a collective trauma, and it’s inevitably changed us all in one way or another.
Be patient with yourself and with the people you love as you find your footing and learn how to connect with each other again.
From the intimate perspective of three friends and neighbors in mid-nineteenth century Auburn, New York—the “agitators” of the title—acclaimed author Dorothy Wickenden tells the fascinating and crucially American stories of abolition, the Underground Railroad, the early women’s rights movement, and the Civil War.
Harriet Tubman was one of the most important conductors on the underground railroad and hid the enslaved men, women and children she rescued in the basement kitchens of Martha Wright, Quaker mother of seven, and Frances Seward, wife of Governor, then Senator, then Secretary of State William H. Seward.
Many of the most prominent figures in the history books—Lincoln, Seward, Daniel Webster, Frederick Douglass, Charles Sumner, John Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Lloyd Garrison—are seen through the eyes of the protagonists. So are the most explosive political debates: about women’s roles and rights during the abolition crusade, emancipation, and the arming of Black troops; and about the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Beginning two decades before the Civil War, when Harriet Tubman was still enslaved and Martha and Frances were young women bound by law and tradition, The Agitators ends two decades after the war, in a radically changed United States. Wickenden brings this period of our history to life through the richly detailed letters her characters wrote several times a week. Like Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals and David McCullough’s John Adams, Wickenden’s The Agitators is revelatory, riveting, and profoundly relevant to our own time. [Amazon]
The New Yorker Radio Hour
“The Agitators” is a book about three women—three revolutionaries—who changed the world at a time when women weren’t supposed to be in public life at all. Frances Seward was a committed abolitionist who settled with her husband in the small town of Auburn, in western New York. One of their neighbors was a Quaker named Martha Coffin Wright, who helped organize the first convention for women’s rights, at Seneca Falls. Both women harbored fugitives when it was a violation of federal law. And, after they met Harriet Tubman, through the Underground Railroad, Tubman also settled in Auburn. “The Agitators,” by The New Yorker’s executive editor, Dorothy Wickenden, tells their interlocking stories. “These people were outsiders, and they were revolutionaries,” Wickenden tells David Remnick. “They were only two generations separated from the Declaration of Independence, which they believed in literally. They did not understand why women and Black Americans could not have exactly the same rights that had been promised.”
‘You can easily guess that in using the term “innocent bystander” I had to examine my conscience to see whether I was being facetious. I do not remember if I smiled when I first thought of it; but, in any case, I am no longer smiling. For I do nothing the question of our innocence can be a matter for jesting, and I am no longer certain that it is honorable to stand by as the helpless witness to a cataclysm, with no other hope than to die innocently and by accident, as a nonparticipant.’
[Raids one the Unspeakable]
The 21st century, the United States of America, capitalism, our churches and our political parties, and all the rest are passing away. We might recall the Buddhist heart sutra “Gone, gone, entirely gone” when we watch old movies—even celebrities and stars die. We can take this as a morbid lesson, or we can receive it as the truth ahead of time, so we’re not surprised, disappointed, and angry when it happens in our generation.
In times like these, our prayer may need to be expressive and embodied, visceral and vocal. How else can we pray with our immense anger and grief? How else can we pray about ecocide, about the death that humanity is unleashing upon Mother Earth and upon ourselves? How else can we break through our inertia and despair, so that we don’t shut down and go numb? – Fr. Richard Rohr
Walk. And pray. Contemplation.
Terry Tempest Williams
Who have we become? “This is a violation against ever woman and life-giver,” says Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk
A prehistoric petroglyph panel near Moab was defaced with the words ‘White Power’
The Bureau of Land Mangement is offering a $10,000 reward for relevant information about those who committed the vandalism
Salk Lake Tribune
Known as the Birthing Rock, the boulder features petroglyphs on all four of its accessible sides that date from the Archaic period to more modern Ute inscriptions, including dozens of ancestral Puebloan-era images, including a woman giving birth.
Sometime late Monday night or early Tuesday, however, vandals descended on the roadside rock and scratched it with obscenities, a crude penis and the words “white power” directly over the top of two anthropomorphic figures.
The Bureau of Land Management is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the vandalism.
Al Jazeera English
‘India’s devastating second wave was fuelled by a series of crowded events, including mass rallies addressed by PM Narendra Modi, religious holidays and pilgrimages on the Ganges river — in pictures.’
India opened too quickly, no masks, large gatherings, few vaccinations…by choice.
331 (M) people in the U.S. Masks eased outside. Be wise. Distance. Small groups. Oregon is surging and variants are circulating. And please. Read the science. Vaccinate. -dayle
“They had no idea the virus could spread this fast.”
Fear and Loss: Inside India’s Coronavirus Crisis
New York Times
Jeffrey Gettleman, The South Asia bureau chief for The New York Times, based in Delhi.
COVID is here to stay. With so many hesitant, and anti-vaxxers, it is now believed we will never reach herd immunity in this country.
What will the psychology and existential remains be as we settle into a new existence? -dayle
Dr. David Pate, Idaho COVID task force:
“I am very pleased with many of the efforts being made to address vaccine hesitancy, but we lost our chance a year ago to rid ourselves of this virus and unfortunately, I suspect we are unlikely to reach herd immunity given more and more evidence that prior infection is not going to be as protective as we had hoped, the unwillingness of people to follow guidance that would allow us to control disease transmission and therefore the evolution of variants, and the currently inadequate numbers of people willing to be vaccinated. Most likely, we just have to prepare for SARS-CoV-2 to be endemic.”
[Christakis is a physician and sociologist who explores the ancient origins and modern implications of human nature. He directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale University, where he is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science in the department of sociology, medicine, ecology and evolutionary biology, statistics and date science and biomedical engineering.’]
‘…and frequent funeral piles of the dead were continually burning.’ -Homer, The Iliad
‘Humanity has but three great enemies: fever, famine, and war; of these by far the greatest, by far the most terrible, fever.’ Sir William Osler 
New York Times
“The story changes daily and so do the prognostications about where this pandemic is going, how it will end (insofar as it ever does end), what toll it will take and whether it will serve as a critical inflection point, or not, for how we humans live on this planet. Will it deliver a deeply absorbed lesson, not just on disease preparedness but also on climate change and vanishing biological diversity, the three greatest problems we are facing and causing? Or will it drain away and be forgotten, as the 1918 influenza pandemic largely drained away, its lessons ignored and its grim particulars seemingly blocked from public memory for decades? Along with the prognostications we’re also getting postgnostications (it’s not my neologism), efforts to understand the past by predicting what happened: Where did this virus come from? A wild animal? Which animal? How did it manage to be so nefariously well adapted for human infection? How did it get into us at the start? Has it evolved since?
Given that Christakis is a physician and sociologist, the co-author of an earlier book about social networks and how they shape lives, the co-author also of an influential paper on “social contagion theory” and the co-director of the Institute for Network Science at Yale, one naturally expects that “network science” might afford him special insight into Covid-19.
M O O N
This can manifest as a difficult moon as aspects of wanting more freedom to move forward meet with limiting influences and hard work.
Resiliency and flexibility are very helpful during this time especially around unexpected changes, events, reversals and decisions. Be careful with being impulsive.
Put some practical thought into any important choices around changing or adjusting anything major in your life. Take this opportunity to tap into your own wisdom as well as to find a new courage for those changes you do want to make.
You may experience an inner tension that brings up any imbalance you feel around time – how you spend it, how you use your energy etc.
Use this full moon time to take an inventory of what you value so you can set intentions and get support around what is most important to you. We are all ready to move on, to go forward and experience more freedom.
And yet we are being pulled back to take yet another look at what needs to change, to be healed and to be released.
So, be patient, ask what can be healed, and do the work so you can move into the future from a solid and practical foundation and not one built on impulsive behavior. ~Lena
The full Moon in Scorpio is Monday, April 26 at 9:33 PM Mountain Daylight Time
“In a very real way, the shift from a pagan earth-based spirituality to the patriarchal Christian notion of man’s right to dominate nature was a causal factor contributing to what would one day become our environmental crisis.”
F O R E A R T H D A Y
Award winning film at the 2021 Sun Valley Film Festival. NatGeo photographer Brian Skerry discovers a profound whale culture filming the series over three years in 24 aqueous locations across the planet. Astonishingly beautiful and tender. Streaming on Disney+. #EarthDay2021
Executive Producer James Cameron: “It’s so important for people to understand and illuminate how these creatures think, how they feel, what their emotion is like, what their society is like, because we won’t protect what we don’t love.” [Deadline]
‘The Eurocentric view of property ownership requires to see land as disconnected from us, separating from the source of life. The Indigenous view, kcyie, recognizes our obligation to care for the land as we would care for our human relatives.’
-Fr. Richard Rohr
Climate Journalist Eric Holthaus:
“A Green New Deal is inevitable – if we keep on fighting for it.
This is a terrifying moment because it is so important, and the people who realize that – people on the front lines of climate violence around the world – are being told to wait.
The anger in these words I’m writing now is because I know that what needs to happen isn’t hard at all once we get enough people demanding it.
The best thing of all is there’s a shared vision of a world where every living thing matters. Building upon hundreds of years of wisdom, struggle, and science, we know that a flourishing human civilization is no longer possible without it being rooted in ecology and reverence for the interconnection and interdependence of us all on each other.
And, as it turns out, that vision of a better world is really really popular.
We have everything we need to make this happen. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to wait any longer for a livable planet.”
A lot can change in five years. Or nothing at all.
June 7, 1958 to April 21, 2016
“Peace is more than the absence of war.”
Father Richard Rohr wrote this prayer yesterday after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. Richard and the Daily Meditations editorial team invite you to pray these words, along with your own, as your contemplative practice today.
Center for Action and Contemplation
Albuquerque, New Mexico
‘Love trees? Love love? “The Tree in Me” is for you – a tender painted poem about growing our capacity for joy, strength, and love.’ -Maria Popova
Walt Whitman, who considered trees the profoundest teachers in how to best be human, remembered the woman he loved and respected above all others as that rare person who was “entirely herself; as simple as nature; true, honest; beautiful as a tree is tall, leafy, rich, full, free — is a tree.”
As the child looks up to face a young woman — who could be a mother or a sister or a first love or the school janitor or the Vice President — the book ends with a subtle affirmation of William Blake’s timeless tree-tinted insistence that we see not what we look at but what we are.
The tree in me
is seed and blossom,
bark and stump…
and part sun.
Posted on twitter, Sunday, April 18th:
‘The Israeli and UK experience show that once the population is 2-3 wks out after 50% of adults are vaccinated (something the U.S. hit this wknd), then you get strong suppression of the infection.’ @MartyMakary
‘Very good news.’ @VPrasadMDMPH
“…find a voice to help you through the weeds, or walk away.”
“…we have this implicit bias in journalism toward what’s new and not what’s true.”Important segment this week from On The Media about the J&J pause, science, and how it’s reported. It speaks to media literacy, as well as to the sensationalism of the news. -dayle
Reading so many accounts of folks who are adamant against vaccination for various reasons, most based on misinformation and disinformation.
Be proactive. Be media literate. Do your research. Talk to your doctors.
For those of us who believe and are grateful for science, if others opt out, this compromises the rest of us who want to acclimate back into an open society, culture, and community void of fear of being around others because of overlying ignorance. Put the politics aside and do your part, not only for our national community, but the global community. Do. Your. Part. -dayle
[Released April 13, 2021]
I wanted to share this song that I wrote about eventually coming out of lockdown, with some much needed optimism – thank you to Dave Grohl for jumping on drums, bass and guitar, it was a lot of fun working with you on this – hope you all enjoy Eazy Sleazy!
Still rockin’ at 77, so, yeah…long live rock n’ roll.♩-dayle
A celebration from Cat.
Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. The fast (sawm) begins at dawn and ends at sunset. Ramadan commemorates the time when the prophet Mohammad revealed the religion’s holy text—the Quran—1,400 years ago.
Animated version of Yusuf Islam’s [Cat Stevens] ‘Ramadan Moon’ song.
Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is my heart — Victor Hugo
Response Ability | Vaccines, Variants, Vacations — and what do I think about the new J&J issue.
by, Jordan L. Shlain MD
Welcome to Dispatch #18, which falls on the anniversary of my New York volunteer effort at a hastily-built FEMA tent on the cold sidewalk outside of Columbia’s Washington Heights Emergency Room where I was asked to triage who was sick enough to be admitted to the overflowing ER and who should go home. All I had was a cheap, disposable plastic stethoscope, a pulse oximeter, a blood pressure cuff, a thermometer, and an iPad that had live translators. I had no ability to do a COVID test — at the time they were reserved for healthcare workers in the other tent. The whole episode was eerie. I’ve added some video clips and photos at the end if you’re interested.
It’s April and we’re now vaccinating a few million people per day. This is great! Full stop. It was only 5 months ago we were in the global doghouse — and now we’re back. The US is on track to have all adults immunized by summer. While there is much to be grateful for, we can’t turn a blind eye to the access disparity and the greater issues that it represents. If you want to read the details of the vaccine section, know this: get any of the three vaccines being offered in the US — they all prevent severe disease and death. On J&J — what you need to know is the risk of dying from COVID (Covid has already killed 1,712 out of every million Americans) is much greater than the risk of a blood clot (6 in 6,800,000 or 1.13 out of every million Americans). This is real, yet it must be taken in context-see Vaccine section.
Lots of new questions and answers as we trundle through what I hope is the penultimate act of this pandemic. We are seeing rising cases in certain states with a dark cloud of variants obscuring a clear path to herd immunity. Kids are now the major focus of a vaccination effort — and if we want their buy in, politicians and public health professionals need to get on TikTok or Snap! Most Gen Zs want to wait and see what happens.
Cases are starting to rise in the US and there is a real possibility of a fourth wave, albeit not as gnarly as our summer wave, but real enough to strain the healthcare system — and with a younger demographic.
I’m more optimistic about the US than I have been in a long time, but we’re not there yet. We likey have a few more months of mask-wearing for those vaccinated in the U.S. The rest of the world will likely not be vaccinated for years — and this is a problem. The United States has a unique opportunity to show our magnanimity and help less fortunate countries get vaccinated. If we want to be the leaders of the free world, we have to act like it. Generosity is the most powerful form of influence.
OK — let’s get to it.
Le Mont Saint-Michel
Some captures from the film…
7th generation choices
Inherent proclivity to transcend
Co-evolution through creativity
L I F E D A N C E
“Life cannot be reduced.”
“Life feels itself.”
“Shall we go home?”
“We are the works of all who came before.”
︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ died April 10th, 1955.
“The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of ℒℴve❥. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
Barn in France. ♡
The New Moon in Aries is Sunday, April 11 at 8:30 PM Mountain Daylight Time (MDT)
This moon brings up the physical body, the condition of your health, re-evaluation of the structure of your self-care, and a reflection of what needs to change in your daily organization of life. Be sure to take some time to reflect and evaluate. The dynamic energy of this new moon will give much fuel and ignition to any changes and choices you make for improvement however it can also trigger negative reactions, impatience and irritability as you face uncomfortable truths and challenges. Don’t take your discomfort out on others and remember to be kind no matter what.
Make sure not to make decisions out of fear or being pressured by others. Take your time, check in with your own intuition and what feels right. A new moon always supports personal decisions that must include your own timing, not pressured by others.
There is a part of us during this volatile and dynamic time that wants to see justice around what was done to us and how we have suffered either personally or collectively in the past. There is potential anger and attitude towards righting the wrongs and our personalities would love to see the alleged perpetrators go up in flames. However, the responsible and mature thing to do is to forgive the past, let go of your attachment to suffering and harness this fiery, creative energy to move yourself forward in the most positive way.
[The New Yorker]
There are currently 850,000 active podcasts and over 47 million podcast episodes. More than half of all US consumers above the age of 12 listen to podcasts.
Apple Podcasts … features more than 500,000 active podcasts, including content in more than 100 languages.
[Fast Company/Podcast Insights]
The champion of mRNA
Katalin Kariko in February at her home in Jenkintown, Pa.Hannah Yoon
The New Yorker
Kati Kariko Helped Shield the World From the Coronavirus.
Collaborating with devoted colleagues, Dr. Kariko laid the groundwork for the mRNA vaccines turning the tide of the pandemic.
by Gina Kolata
|Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology is the bedrock of the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. It’s the genetic script that carries instructions to the protein-making machinery of cells.|
|For its newly prominent role protecting the world from the coronavirus pandemic, we can thank Katalin Kariko, a Hungarian-born scientist, and her close collaborator, Dr. Drew Weissman.|
|Dr. Kariko, 66, has focused on mRNA for her entire career. She was convinced it could be used to instruct cells to make their own medicines, including vaccines.|
|For decades, she clung to the fringes of academia in the United States, struggling to find a permanent position and never making more than $60,000 a year. Her unorthodox ideas seemed wild and fanciful to her peers, and she struggled to get grants.|
|After her research stalled — she could make mRNA work in a petri dish, but not in living mice — Dr. Kariko found a clue in an experiment’s control group. A single molecule called pseudouridine helped evade the immune response and deliver the protein-instruction payload.|
|Last November, when the first stunning results from the mRNA coronavirus vaccines came in, Dr. Kariko turned to her husband. “Oh, it works,” she said. “I thought so.”|
|To celebrate, our colleague Gina Kolata reports, Dr. Kariko ate an entire box of Goobers chocolate-covered peanuts. By herself.|
Credit…via Kati Kariko
She grew up in Hungary, daughter of a butcher. She decided she wanted to be a scientist, although she had never met one. She moved to the United States in her 20s, but for decades never found a permanent position, instead clinging to the fringes of academia.
Now Katalin Kariko, 66, known to colleagues as Kati, has emerged as one of the heroes of Covid-19 vaccine development. Her work, with her close collaborator, Dr. Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania, laid the foundation for the stunningly successful vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
For her entire career, Dr. Kariko has focused on messenger RNA, or mRNA — the genetic script that carries DNA instructions to each cell’s protein-making machinery. She was convinced mRNA could be used to instruct cells to make their own medicines, including vaccines.
But for many years her career at the University of Pennsylvania was fragile. She migrated from lab to lab, relying on one senior scientist after another to take her in. She never made more than $60,000 a year.
By all accounts intense and single-minded, Dr. Kariko lives for “the bench” — the spot in the lab where she works. She cares little for fame. “The bench is there, the science is good,” she shrugged in a recent interview. “Who cares?”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and infectious Diseases, knows Dr. Kariko’s work. “She was, in a positive sense, kind of obsessed with the concept of messenger RNA,” he said.
Dr. Kariko’s struggles to stay afloat in academia have a familiar ring to scientists. She needed grants to pursue ideas that seemed wild and fanciful. She did not get them, even as more mundane research was rewarded.
“When your idea is against the conventional wisdom that makes sense to the star chamber, it is very hard to break out,” said Dr. David Langer, a neurosurgeon who has worked with Dr. Kariko.
Dr. Kariko’s ideas about mRNA were definitely unorthodox. Increasingly, they also seem to have been prescient.
“It’s going to be transforming,” Dr. Fauci said of mRNA research. “It is already transforming for Covid-19, but also for other vaccines. H.I.V. — people in the field are already excited. Influenza, malaria.”
‘I Felt Like a God’
For Dr. Kariko, most every day was a day in the lab. “You are not going to work — you are going to have fun,” her husband, Bela Francia, manager of an apartment complex, used to tell her as she dashed back to the office on evenings and weekends. He once calculated that her endless workdays meant she was earning about a dollar an hour.
For many scientists, a new discovery is followed by a plan to make money, to form a company and get a patent. But not for Dr. Kariko. “That’s the furthest thing from Kate’s mind,” Dr. Langer said.
She grew up in the small Hungarian town of Kisujszallas. She earned a Ph.D. at the University of Szeged and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at its Biological Research Center.
In 1985, when the university’s research program ran out of money, Dr. Kariko, her husband, and 2-year-old daughter, Susan, moved to Philadelphia for a job as a postdoctoral student at Temple University. Because the Hungarian government only allowed them to take $100 out of the country, she and her husband sewed £900 (roughly $1,246 today) into Susan’s teddy bear. (Susan grew up to be a two-time Olympic gold medal winner in rowing.)
When Dr. Kariko started, it was early days in the mRNA field. Even the most basic tasks were difficult, if not impossible. How do you make RNA molecules in a lab? How do you get mRNA into cells of the body?
In 1989, she landed a job with Dr. Elliot Barnathan, then a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania. It was a low-level position, research assistant professor, and never meant to lead to a permanent tenured position. She was supposed to be supported by grant money, but none came in.
She and Dr. Barnathan planned to insert mRNA into cells, inducing them to make new proteins. In one of the first experiments, they hoped to use the strategy to instruct cells to make a protein called the urokinase receptor. If the experiment worked, they would detect the new protein with a radioactive molecule that would be drawn to the receptor.
“Most people laughed at us,” Dr. Barnathan said.
One fateful day, the two scientists hovered over a dot-matrix printer in a narrow room at the end of a long hall. A gamma counter, needed to track the radioactive molecule, was attached to a printer. It began to spew data.
Their detector had found new proteins produced by cells that were never supposed to make them — suggesting that mRNA could be used to direct any cell to make any protein, at will.
“I felt like a god,” Dr. Kariko recalled.
She and Dr. Barnathan were on fire with ideas. Maybe they could use mRNA to improve blood vessels for heart bypass surgery. Perhaps they could even use the procedure to extend the life span of human cells.
Dr. Barnathan, though, soon left the university, accepting a position at a biotech firm, and Dr. Kariko was left without a lab or financial support. She could stay at Penn only if she found another lab to take her on. “They expected I would quit,” she said.
Universities only support low-level Ph.D.s for a limited amount of time, Dr. Langer said: “If they don’t get a grant, they will let them go.” Dr. Kariko “was not a great grant writer,” and at that point “mRNA was more of an idea,” he said.
But Dr. Langer knew Dr. Kariko from his days as a medical resident, when he had worked in Dr. Barnathan’s lab. Dr. Langer urged the head of the neurosurgery department to give Dr. Kariko’s research a chance. “He saved me,” she said.
Dr. Langer thinks it was Dr. Kariko who saved him — from the kind of thinking that dooms so many scientists.
Working with her, he realized that one key to real scientific understanding is to design experiments that always tell you something, even if it is something you don’t want to hear. The crucial data often come from the control, he learned — the part of the experiment that involves a dummy substance for comparison.
“There’s a tendency when scientists are looking at data to try to validate their own idea,” Dr. Langer said. “The best scientists try to prove themselves wrong. Kate’s genius was a willingness to accept failure and keep trying, and her ability to answer questions people were not smart enough to ask.”
Dr. Langer hoped to use mRNA to treat patients who developed blood clots following brain surgery, often resulting in strokes. His idea was to get cells in blood vessels to make nitric oxide, a substance that dilates blood vessels, but has a half-life of milliseconds. Doctors can’t just inject patients with it.
He and Dr. Kariko tried their mRNA on isolated blood vessels used to study strokes. It failed. They trudged through snow in Buffalo, N.Y., to try it in a laboratory with rabbits prone to strokes. Failure again.
And then Dr. Langer left the university, and the department chairman said he was leaving as well. Dr. Kariko again was without a lab and without funds for research.
A meeting at a photocopying machine changed that. Dr. Weissman happened by, and she struck up a conversation. “I said, ‘I am an RNA scientist — I can make anything with mRNA,’” Dr. Kariko recalled.
Dr. Weissman told her he wanted to make a vaccine against H.I.V. “I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I can do it,’” Dr. Kariko said.
Despite her bravado, her research on mRNA had stalled. She could make mRNA molecules that instructed cells in petri dishes to make the protein of her choice. But the mRNA did not work in living mice.
“Nobody knew why,” Dr. Weissman said. “All we knew was that the mice got sick. Their fur got ruffled, they hunched up, they stopped eating, they stopped running.”
It turned out that the immune system recognizes invading microbes by detecting their mRNA and responding with inflammation. The scientists’ mRNA injections looked to the immune system like an invasion of pathogens.
But with that answer came another puzzle. Every cell in every person’s body makes mRNA, and the immune system turns a blind eye. “Why is the mRNA I made different?” Dr. Kariko wondered.
A control in an experiment finally provided a clue. Dr. Kariko and Dr. Weissman noticed their mRNA caused an immune overreaction. But the control molecules, another form of RNA in the human body — so-called transfer RNA, or tRNA — did not.
A molecule called pseudouridine in tRNA allowed it to evade the immune response. As it turned out, naturally occurring human mRNA also contains the molecule.
Added to the mRNA made by Dr. Kariko and Dr. Weissman, the molecule did the same — and also made the mRNA much more powerful, directing the synthesis of 10 times as much protein in each cell.
The idea that adding pseudouridine to mRNA protected it from the body’s immune system was a basic scientific discovery with a wide range of thrilling applications. It meant that mRNA could be used to alter the functions of cells without prompting an immune system attack.
“We both started writing grants,” Dr. Weissman said. “We didn’t get most of them. People were not interested in mRNA. The people who reviewed the grants said mRNA will not be a good therapeutic, so don’t bother.’”
Leading scientific journals rejected their work. When the research finally was published, in Immunity, it got little attention.
Dr. Weissman and Dr. Kariko then showed they could induce an animal — a monkey — to make a protein they had selected. In this case, they injected monkeys with mRNA for erythropoietin, a protein that stimulates the body to make red blood cells. The animals’ red blood cell counts soared.
The scientists thought the same method could be used to prompt the body to make any protein drug, like insulin or other hormones or some of the new diabetes drugs. Crucially, mRNA also could be used to make vaccines unlike any seen before.
Instead of injecting a piece of a virus into the body, doctors could inject mRNA that would instruct cells to briefly make that part of the virus.
“We talked to pharmaceutical companies and venture capitalists. No one cared,” Dr. Weissman said. “We were screaming a lot, but no one would listen.”
Eventually, though, two biotech companies took notice of the work: Moderna, in the United States, and BioNTech, in Germany. Pfizer partnered with BioNTech, and the two now help fund Dr. Weissman’s lab.
‘Oh, It Works’
Soon clinical trials of an mRNA flu vaccine were underway, and there were efforts to build new vaccines against cytomegalovirus and the Zika virus, among others. Then came the coronavirus.
Researchers had known for 20 years that the crucial feature of any coronavirus is the spike protein sitting on its surface, which allows the virus to inject itself into human cells. It was a fat target for an mRNA vaccine.
Chinese scientists posted the genetic sequence of the virus ravaging Wuhan in January 2020, and researchers everywhere went to work. BioNTech designed its mRNA vaccine in hours; Moderna designed its in two days.
The idea for both vaccines was to introduce mRNA into the body that would briefly instruct human cells to produce the coronavirus’s spike protein. The immune system would see the protein, recognize it as alien, and learn to attack the coronavirus if it ever appeared in the body.
The vaccines, though, needed a lipid bubble to encase the mRNA and carry it to the cells that it would enter. The vehicle came quickly, based on 25 years of work by multiple scientists, including Pieter Cullis of the University of British Columbia.
Scientists also needed to isolate the virus’s spike protein from the bounty of genetic data provided by Chinese researchers. Dr. Barney Graham, of the National Institutes of Health, and Jason McClellan, of the University of Texas at Austin, solved that problem in short order.
Testing the quickly designed vaccines required a monumental effort by companies and the National Institutes of Health. But Dr. Kariko had no doubts.
On Nov. 8, the first results of the Pfizer-BioNTech study came in, showing that the mRNA vaccine offered powerful immunity to the new virus. Dr. Kariko turned to her husband. “Oh, it works,” she said. “I thought so.”
To celebrate, she ate an entire box of Goobers chocolate-covered peanuts. By herself.
Dr. Weissman celebrated with his family, ordering takeout dinner from an Italian restaurant, “with wine,” he said. Deep down, he was awed.
“My dream was always that we develop something in the lab that helps people,” Dr. Weissman said. “I’ve satisfied my life’s dream.”
Dr. Kariko and Dr. Weissman were vaccinated on Dec. 18 at the University of Pennsylvania. Their inoculations turned into a press event, and as the cameras flashed, she began to feel uncharacteristically overwhelmed.
A senior administrator told the doctors and nurses rolling up their sleeves for shots that the scientists whose research made the vaccine possible were present, and they all clapped. Dr. Kariko wept.
Things could have gone so differently, for the scientists and for the world, Dr. Langer said. “There are probably many people like her who failed,” he said.
he·ro | \ ˈhir-(ˌ)ō
Yeah. Dr. Kariko is a (s)hero. Remember her name. -dayle
‘The heart opens doors the mind can’t find.’
‘That barbed wire on your path is the mind. Cut the wire and your path clearly find. Heart trickster, soul veil and mind bind. To find the path you must put all three behind.’
‘People’s beliefs about the world are only as reliable as the information system that shapes them and ours is completely and irredeemably broken.’
-Sean Illing, VOX
We need a new paradigm.
[Image: Thomas Merton]
“Mary Magdalene belongs to the great worldwide stream of spiritual awakening and has nothing whatsoever to do with organized religion.
If we are serious about activating Mary Magdalene’s wisdom presence within contemporary Christianity, the first step is to increase her visibility within the liturgy, particularly during Holy Week, where her presence is so crucial to understanding the Paschal Mystery as an act of redeeming ℒℴve.
I would like to see the entire Holy Week liturgy reframed around two parallel anointings…at Bethany and in the garden of the resurrection…which so powerfully convey the energy of transformative love.
Early Easter morning ceremonially enacted, rather than merely read, the gospel account of Mary Magdalene’s visit to the tomb. The basic ceremony, the Visitatio Sepulchri, has been around since the tenth century; it merely needs to be returned to active duty.
Mary Magdalene weaves into one whole cloth those strands that have traditionally been kept so stringently separated: conscious ℒℴve, healing, kenotic surrender, the feminine, singleness, transformation. To touch any part of the this hologram is to invoke all the rest.
We do not know for certain what happened to Mary Magdalene after the resurrection. The gospel bearing her name confirms that her spiritual leadership was honored in a least some circles of early Christianity. She may well have sojourned in France. What we do know for certain is that the fragrance of her presence did not disappear from Christianity. In mysticism and allegory, in art and folklore, in esoteric circles…all veiled, but pointing like a finger at the moon…her mysterious alchemical feminine was kept alive. Now at last, in our own times, it comes above ground again, asking us to awaken yet again to the morning of the resurrection and find ourselves in the garden, awaiting the encounter that can change our institutional hearts.
The imaginal realm is real, and through it you will never be separated from any one or anything you have ever loved, for ℒℴve is the ground in which you live and and move and have your being. This is the message that Mary Magdalene has perennially to bring. This is the message we most need to hear.”
‘In 591 Pope Gregory claimed that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute, a misconception that remains to this day. In 2016 she was named by the Vatican as the apostle of the apostles, their equal.’
-Written by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett. Directed by Garth Davis.
“As someone who watched it twice in 24 hours, ‘Mary Magdalene’ moved me in a way that no previous film about Christianity ever has.
Mary finds a place in the world and a cause in which to place her profound empathy. She was not just any spectator, this telling argues, so much as proof that at the core of Jesus’ teachings is a feminine influence.” -Nick Allen