from the world's big
Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.
- J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
- But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
- These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
Mental decolonisation<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM0OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDU4Mjg3N30.pKS1PLxKYeJ6WDPAcleg7NCxzDn7Pddcg9rSJaul6no/img.png?width=980" id="56ee5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1d2ba98946accd12f7e0070c8d10154d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Menu page for Arda.ir, the website of the Persian Tolkien Society." />
Menu page for Arda.ir, the website of the Persian Tolkien Society.
Image: Arda.ir<p>Where on earth was Middle-earth? Based on a few hints by Tolkien himself, we've always sort-of assumed that his stories of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" were centered on Europe, but so long ago that the shape of the coasts and the land has changed. </p><p>But perhaps that's too easy and too Eurocentric an assumption; perhaps, like so many other things these days, Tolkien's fantasy realm too is in dire need of mental decolonisation.</p><p>And here's an excellent occasion: an Iranian Tolkienologist has found intriguing hints that the writer based some of Middle-earth's topography on mountains, rivers, and islands located in and near present-day Pakistan. </p><p>As mentioned in a previous article – recently reposted on the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/VeryStrangeMaps" target="_blank">Strange Maps Facebook page</a> on the occasion of the death of Ian Holm – Tolkien admitted that "The Shire is based on rural England, and not on any other country in the world," and that "the action of the story takes place in the North-West of 'Middle-earth', equivalent in latitude to the coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean."<br></p>
Non-European topography<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTQ4MzcyMX0.891LPW42L78fdrwUhXdgOab7cbhs3YOqZK4ukIQx-Rw/img.png?width=980" id="6741c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2b50c57cb3b8a3a1cc8a4696c89ad954" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Tian-shan, the Himalayas, and the Pamirs" />
If you look at it like that, yes: that does resemble Mordor...
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>Extrapolating from the location of the Shire in Middle-earth and from other clues dropped by Tolkien, geophysics and geology professor Peter Bird matched the geography of Middle-earth with that of Europe (more about that in the <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/121-where-on-earth-was-middle-earth?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR0ZFYK1EXrf4J3B3X5_U4hSAgidgBs24ZNTYV9QEFbz2qI34OA_DpZsn70#Echobox=1592583835" target="_blank">aforementioned article</a>).</p><p>However, seeing Middle-earth as a mere palimpsest for present-day Europe is to place an undue limit on the imagination of its creator. As Tolkien also said about the shape of his world: "[It] was devised 'dramatically' rather than geologically or paleontologically."</p><p>In other words, certain parts of Middle-earth may very well have been inspired by other places than European ones. It is telling that it took a non-European connoisseur of Tolkien's topography to find some examples. <br></p>
"Seen that map before"<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1MS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTQ3Njc3NH0.azDO1_NWm9q9FwMpmqBOV2troOX0ajAXS4lP2bLstJI/img.png?width=980" id="1b193" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="21c3d38b14503ba8edac18c0ef1cceb0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Indus river" />
The Indus river is a prominent geographical feature of Pakistan. Its course is similar to that of the Anduin, the Great River of Middle-earth.
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>In an article published on <a href="https://arda.ir/" target="_blank">Arda.ir</a>, the web page for the Persian Tolkien Society, Mohammad Reza Kamali writes that during several years of cartographic study, "I found that maybe there are real lands [that] could have inspired Professor Tolkien, and some of them are not in Europe."</p><p>Around 2012, Kamali's eye stopped when it came across a Google Map of Central Asia that showed the mountain chain of the Himalayas, the peaks of the Pamirs bunched together in an almost circular area, and the huge, flat oval of the Takla Makan desert, bounded to the north by the Tian-Shan mountains. </p><p>"I had seen that map before," he writes. "This is of course Mordor, the land of Sauron and the dark powers of Middle-earth, where Frodo and Sam destroy the One Ring." </p><p>In <a href="http://lotrproject.com/map" target="_blank">Tolkien's world</a>, the Himalayas transform into Ephel Duath, the Mountains of Shadow; and the Tian Shan into Ered Lithui, the Ash Mountains. And the circle-shaped Pamirs "are the same shape and in exactly the same corner as the Udûn of Mordor, where Frodo and Sam originally tried getting into Mordor, via the Black Gate."<br></p>
Similar shapes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDQyODMzNX0.KHrY7rDCNNaKKJQz-xn431APM2TqxGPCaMsqNvBe1xA/img.jpg?width=980" id="7a9fa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e87f1af97902201abc042640255606b2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Marine Corps helicopter flying over Tarbela Dam" />
A US Marine Corps helicopter flying over the Tarbela Dam on the Indus river in Pakistan. At its center: a former river island which may have been the inspiration for Cair Andros, a ship-shaped island in Middle-earth's Anduin river.
Image: Paul Duncan (USMC), public domain<p>Mulling over these similarities, Kamali became convinced that Tolkien's map work was heavily inspired by Asia. Looking further, he found more evidence. Consider Anduin, the Great River of Middle-earth, in whose waters the One Ring was lost for more than two thousand years. </p><p>On Tolkien's map, the Anduin bends toward the sea in a shape similar to that of another great river: the Indus, which runs the length of Pakistan. Like the Anduin, it flows to the west of a major mountain chain. A prominent feature of the Anduin is the river island of Cair Andros, just north of Osgiliath. Its name means 'Ship of Long Foam', a reference to its long and narrow shape, and the sharpness of its rocks, which split the waters of the Anduin like a prow. <br></p><p>Kamali is not entirely sure, but proposes that Tolkien may have been inspired by a similar-shaped island in the Indus. Now integrated into the Tarbela Dam, which was inaugurated in 1976, it would still have been a separate island in the 1930s and '40s, when Tolkien dreamed up his map.</p>
Kutch as Tolfalas Island<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTU5NjcyNn0.869W8iiowQb9_T3laFKOUe5o5UMXuMlSITb1VxRlC2g/img.png?width=980" id="9c49e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="548bafc6042cc7515e07f77657aa161c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Kutch" />
During the rainy season, the coastal region of Kutch, near the mouth of the Indus, turns into an island that resembles Tolfalas Island, near the mouth of the Anduin.
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>Turning our eyes to the mouth of the Anduin and Indus, we see another pair of islands, and Kamali is more certain about the real one having inspired the fictional one. The fictional one is Tolfalas Island, the largest island in Belfalas Bay. <br></p><p>At first glance, it doesn't seem to have a real-life counterpart near where the Indus joins the Arabian Sea. But take a look at the coastal part of the Indian state of Gujarat. It is known as <em>Kutch</em>, a name which apparently refers to its alternately wet and dry states. In the rainy season, the shallow wetlands flood and Kutch becomes an island – the biggest island in the Gulf of Kutch, and not too dissimilar to Tolfalas Island. </p>
General knowledge<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDIwODkyOH0.aInJedv3tiQo1LmW-M6D5LV699oeWNltxeYcVKWwtF0/img.jpg?width=980" id="9bc6e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="01d97d3941f9ba732b4df35c3aedd977" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="British Indian Empire 1909 Imperial Gazetteer of India" />
1909 map showing British India in pink (direct British control) and yellow (princely states). Circled: Kutch, clearly recognisable as an island.
Image: Edinburgh Geographical Institute; J. G. Bartholomew and Sons, public domain<p>But are these similarities really more than coincidences? Why would Tolkien, who was based in Oxford and steeped in English lore and Germanic mythology, turn to the Indian subcontinent for topographical inspiration? Perhaps because cartographic knowledge of that part of the world was far more general in Britain then than it is now. Until the late 1940s, the countries we know today as India and Pakistan were part of the British Empire. Detailed maps of the region would have been standard fare for British atlases. </p><p>Kamali is convinced that the topographical features on Tolkien's map of Middle-earth are not mere fantasy, but derive from actual places in our world, and were 'riddled' onto the map. In that case, we may look forward to more discoveries of Tolkien's real-world inspiration. <br></p>
From Frodingham to Frodo<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5NzgzMzE2OH0.uMd43VxS9WQSWr1Z0IQ-UxIhBYkERhxTU7hoPvNachk/img.jpg?width=980" id="05037" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ff9aace7fc7c111df3639a276cedf63c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Photograph of J. R. R. Tolkien in army uniform" />
J.R.R. Tolkien in 1916, when he was 24. Around that time, he was stationed near the village of Frodingham, which may have given him the inspiration for the name of the main protagonist in Lord of the Rings.
Image: public domain<p>Here's one example of Tolkienography—if that's what we can call the effect of actual geography on this particular writer's imagination—which I gleaned myself, some years ago in East Yorkshire. A local historian told me that Tolkien had been stationed in the area during the First World War, and had apparently stored away some local place names for later use. The name Frodo, he said, derived from a town where he had attended a few dances – Frodingham, a village across the Humber in northern Lincolnshire, not far from Scunthorpe (<em>Scunto</em>? We dodged a bullet there). </p><p>Whether that story is entirely true or not is beside the point. As fantasy fans know, any grail quest is ultimately about the quest, not the grail. In fact, to quote Mr Kamali, the treasure is important only because it's well hidden, "by a clever professor who enjoys riddles."</p><p><em>Unless otherwise indicated, illustrations are from Mr Kamali's <a href="https://arda.ir/the-tale-of-the-annotated-map-and-tolkien-hidden-riddles/?fbclid=IwAR3RmtU0ZdyzQGlK-iCsUjho4LA2W279fwO9dt8vv90FX2IeO3zrfMuMToU" target="_blank">article</a> on <a href="https://arda.ir/" target="_blank">Arda.ir</a>, reproduced with kind permission. </em><br></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1036</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p>
Pew Research Center data shows that most people think diversity improves lives in their countries.
Does diversity improve lives?<p>The center surveyed more than 28,000 peoples across Columbia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Tunisia, Venezuela, Vietnam, South African, and the Philippines on their opinions of diversity within their borders. These countries were chosen based on their middle-income status, differing degrees of technology ownership, and high levels of migration (internal or external).</p><p>The survey asked respondents how they viewed increasing numbers of other races, religions, and nationalities and what effect that had on the quality of life in their countries. Additional questions were tailored to a country's unique demographics and circumstances.</p><p>For example, respondents in the Philippines were asked how favorably they viewed Muslims and Christians, while Tunisians were asked about Sunnis and Shiites. Others, such as Mexico and Lebanon, were asked about asylum seekers fleeing to their countries.</p><p>Pew found that "[a]cross the 11 countries surveyed, more said their countries are better off thanks to the increasing number of people of different races, ethnic groups, and nationalities who live there." A minority said the increase made no difference, and an even smaller minority said their country was worse off.</p>
Testing tribalism<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQwODQyMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NzIwODg3N30.vO03jZ1PziezobG9vuLqDI64jiu_93HJ-7prbrE9Enk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C215%2C0%2C91&height=700" id="63e80" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e05016b95976d40d499a0820b055e74b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="crowd of Syrian refugees" />
Lebanon and Jordan took in millions of Syrian refugees during the civil war, helping to explain their complex relationship with diversity in their borders.
Getting used to each other<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cdee76bef43c85ed51018f8b6d8c0690"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7cmEwt4gxbc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>So, what leads to improved views of multiculturalism? According to Pew's data, those with the most positive views on racial, ethnic, and religious diversity were those who interacted most with these groups. More contact equaled more positive views.</p><p>In all of the countries, younger adults were more likely to interact with people of different backgrounds, and except for Jordan, they also held more favorable views of others. The same held true for those who attained higher levels of education. </p><p>This data mirrors another Pew survey in which researchers asked Americans their views on increased racial and ethnic diversity.</p><p>Around 58 percent of Americans said increasing numbers of diverse people would make the United States a better place to live. Only 9 percent said it would make the country worse, while 31 percent said it didn't make a difference. Opinions were split along partisan lines, with more Democrats viewing the statement favorably than Republicans. </p><p>But like the 11 emerging countries, Americans varied by age and education, too. Fifteen percent of respondents 65 and older believed growing multiculturalism made the U.S. worse—the highest of any age group. And 70 percent of college graduates saw diversity in a positive light, compared to 45 percent of those with a high school diploma or less school.</p><p>The survey's complete results can be found <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/06/16/attitudes-toward-diversity-in-11-emerging-economies/" target="_blank">here</a>, while the survey on American attitudes on diversity is <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/06/14/most-americans-express-positive-views-of-countrys-growing-racial-and-ethnic-diversity/" target="_blank">here</a>.</p>
A future toward acceptance<p>These data suggest that the world hasn't succumbed to a <a href="https://bigthink.com/videos/tribalism-politics" target="_blank">new era of tribalism</a> and hate. Far from it. The beliefs of cosmopolitanism and ethics of diversity are, in fact, spreading across many of the world's emerging countries and will likely increase as <a href="https://www.npr.org/2018/11/15/668106376/generation-z-is-the-most-racially-and-ethnically-diverse-yet" target="_blank">subsequent generations</a> become more educated and integrated. That progress may be uneven, but it's real and measurable.</p><p>An appreciation of, even desire for, diversity won't end the tragic events that generate eye-catching headlines, but it can make our shared futures more manageable. As Kwame Anthony Apiah wrote in his book "Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers": "I am urging that we should learn about people in other places, take an interest in their civilizations, their arguments, their errors, their achievements, not because that will bring us to agreement, but because it will help us get used to one another."</p>
Artifacts uncovered in southeast Asia offer clues on early complex human cultures.
- Archaeologists discovered a trove of bone tools used roughly 48,000 years ago in a Sri Lankan cave.
- Uncovered artifacts include the earliest known bow-and-arrow devices found out of Africa, weaving utensils, and decorative beads chiseled from the tips of marine snail shells.
- The findings underline the necessity of looking for early Homo sapien innovation in regions outside of the grasslands and coasts of Africa or Europe, where much of the research has been focused.
New discoveries<p>The study was led by Michelle Langley, an archaeologist at Australia's Griffith University, along with other researchers from Griffith, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH), and the Sri Lankan Government's Department of Archaeology.</p><p>The scientists examined tools and artifacts used between 48,000 and 4,000 years ago that were discovered in the Fa-Hien Lena cave site located in Sri Lanka's southwest tropical forests, an area that has become one of the most important archaeological sites in South Asia since the 1980s. The assemblage of artifacts included 130 of the earliest known bone-arrow tips found out of Africa along with 29 utensils likely used to make clothing or bags. Also excavated were decorative beads chiseled from the tips of marine snail shells and the world's oldest known beads made of red ochre — an ancient pigment used for a variety of things from body paint to sunscreen.</p><p>Archaeologists believe that these tools correspond to four phases of ancient human habitation of the site. Using radiocarbon technology to date thirty items from the site, researchers were able to create a timeline detailing how the tools evolved to become more sophisticated over time.</p><p>"Most of these tools were made out of monkey bone, and many of them appear to have been carefully shaped into arrowheads," <a href="https://experts.griffith.edu.au/8914-michelle-langley" target="_blank">Langley</a> told Tim Vernimmen of <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/06/tools-human-early-migration-rainforest-sri-lanka/" target="_blank">National Geographic</a>. "They are too small and light to have been spearheads, which need some weight to gain force, and too heavy and blunt to have been blow darts."</p><p>On close inspection, the size, forms and fractures found on many of the bone points led the researchers to believe that they were used as arrow tips for bow-and-arrow hunting to catch swift and nimble rainforest prey like monkeys and other tree-dwelling creatures. The arrow points increased in length over time for the purpose of hunting larger mammals like deer. If the researcher's conclusions are correct, this finding marks the earliest definitive proof of high-powered projectile hunting in a tropical rainforest environment.</p><p>Additionally, the team uncovered a range of other bone and tooth tools used for scraping and piercing. They were likely used for making nets and working animal skins or plant fibers in the tropical environment.</p><p>"Evidence for the construction of nets is extremely scarce in artifacts many thousands of years old, making this aspect of the Fa-Hien Lena assemblage a startling find," Langley said in <a href="https://news.griffith.edu.au/2020/06/15/discovery-of-oldest-bow-and-arrow-technology-outside-africa/" target="_blank">a Griffith University press release</a>. Because this wasn't a cold region, the authors opine that the clothing made with the assemblage of tools may have been used for protection from insect-borne diseases.</p><p>Other tools discovered at the site were identified as implements probably associated with freshwater fishing.</p>
Out of Africa and into the rainforest<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQxMDExMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTQ3NjQ4N30.6JVTKeCHRhzvg5lejtnsxf-2y0n1pHAch0MrxJSre1Y/img.jpg?width=980" id="56032" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a86a57e2bb25a4caa3d1777fbcd060b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="assortment of bone arrowheads and tools" />
"Bone projectile points (A to H) and scrapers (I to K) from Fa-Hien Lena. (A and B) Geometric bipoints, with (B) coming from phase D context 146; (C and F) hilted bipoint, red arrows indicate cut notches; (D and E) hilted unipoints, red arrows and red circle indicate wear indicating fixed hafting; (G and H) symmetrical bipoints"
Langley et al., 2020<p>Before the great migration out of Africa, smaller groups of humans began to leave the continent between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago eventually migrating into South Asia. These findings offer clues as to how our ancient ancestors adapted to diverse, precarious environments during their global expansion, such as the tropical rainforest. Though the early humans of South Asia likely didn't make their abode in the densely vegetated forest right away, opting instead for the coast, their decedents eventually would. And that move required some nifty new survival technology. </p><p>The researchers pointed out that their discoveries of these ancient tools underline the necessity of looking for early <em>Homo sapien</em> innovation in regions outside of the grasslands and coasts of Africa, or Europe where much of the research has been focused.</p><p>"[T]his traditional focus has meant that other parts of Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Americas have often been sidelined in discussions of the origins of material culture, such as novel projectile hunting methods or cultural innovations associated with our species," <a href="https://news.griffith.edu.au/2020/06/15/discovery-of-oldest-bow-and-arrow-technology-outside-africa/" target="_blank">said Patrick Roberts</a> from MPI-SHH. </p>
Complex human societies<p>The shell beads that the team found indicate that the ancient forest dwellers traded with the populations that stayed along the coast. The beads were rounded and pierced, suggesting that they were strung. Earlier dated beads (around 8,700 years old) were made from red ochre nodules. The ancient jewelry is gauged to be similar in age to other "social signaling" materials found in Eurasia and Southeast Asia, according to the authors, which was around 45,000 years ago. This highlights the importance of establishing social connections for these early people through trade and symbol. </p><p>"Together, these artifacts reveal a rich human culture in the tropics of South Asia which was creating and utilizing complex hunting and social technologies to not only survive, but thrive, in demanding rainforest environments," concluded study co-author Patrick Roberts, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Queensland.</p>
Those ancient Chinese philosophers earned their insights.
- Classic Taoist wisdom about the nature of change addresses this current moment well.
- Taoist philosophers teach a path that exists between polarities, making it harder for the Western mind to grasp.
- Taoism's three jewels—compassion, frugality, and humility—are essential practices in the age of COVID-19.
The Dao of Letting Go (or Not Trying)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2b1674df75dde103892ccca547cc5db"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ekaTJl5dbRc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><blockquote>"Exterminate the sage, discard the wise, / And the people will benefit a hundredfold; / Exterminate benevolence, discard rectitude, / And the people will again be filial; / Exterminate ingenuity, discard profit, / And there will be no more thieves and bandits. / These three, being false adornments, are not enough / And the people must have something to which they can attach themselves; / Exhibit the unadorned and embrace the uncarved block, / Have little thought of self and as few desires as possible." — <a href="https://www.centertao.org/essays/tao-te-ching/dc-lau/chapter-19-commentary/" target="_blank">Lao Tzu</a>, "<em>Tao Te Ching"</em></blockquote><p>"The Scripture of the Way and Its Virtue," popularly know as "Tao Te Ching," is one of the two foundational texts of Taoism. Written by Laozi (Lao Tzu), an older contemporary of Confucius, this collection of aphorisms features a wide range of techniques for self-cultivation as well as thoughts on government—the two were not necessarily separate. This book has been heavily influential in our culture. Ronald Reagan quoted from it during one well-known speech. Meanwhile, "The Matrix" and "The Tao of Pooh" used Taoism as a basis for new artwork. I've always loved the above passage as it reminds us of that long-held view: the more we crave, be it status or money, the more we suffer. That seems especially pertinent during this pandemic, where the focus is on healing and loved ones, not consumerism. </p><blockquote>"Anything that smacks of exaggeration is irresponsible. Where there is irresponsibility, no one will trust what is said, and when that happens, the man who is transmitting the words will be in danger. Therefore the aphorism says, 'Transmit the established facts; do not transmit words of exaggeration.' If you do that, you will probably come out all right." — "<em><a href="https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Complete_Works_of_Zhuangzi/gQ1nAgAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22Anything+that+smacks+of+exaggeration+is+irresponsible%22&pg=PA27&printsec=frontcover" target="_blank">The Book of Master Zhuang</a>"</em></blockquote><p>Popularly known as Zhuangzi, this passage is from the other foundational text of Taoism. Whereas Laozi was known as a serious cat (his name means "Old Master"), Zhuangzi was a trickster. His stories are more wide-ranging and humorous, though still pointed. I posted this quote on social media before publishing this article. Someone immediately replied that it could have been written today, not in the 4<sup>th</sup> century BCE. We're not as advanced as we think. We certainly still need instruction. </p><blockquote>"What we mean by strength of deeds is / responding with alacrity when encountering alterations; / pushing away disasters and warding off difficulties; / being so strong that there is nothing unvanquished; / facing enemies, there are none that are not humiliated; / responding to transformations by gauging the proper moment; / and being harmed by nothing." — "<em><a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=SNw4oaAY-LIC&pg=PA21&lpg=PA21&dq=%22What+we+mean+by+strength+of+deeds+is%22+huainan&source=bl&ots=5f4SsPOobs&sig=ACfU3U2XsqjoVzrGv_P3_L0PGjvx_oNOrg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjsuImchJvpAhXzlXIEHUmKDMQQ6AEwAXoECAMQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22What%20we%20mean%20by%20strength%20of%20deeds%20is%22%20huainan&f=false" target="_blank">Master of Huainan</a>"</em></blockquote><p>This collection of scholarly debates was presented to the King of Huainan, Liu An, in 139 BCE. As with many texts influenced by Taoism and Confucianism (with some Mohist philosophy thrown in), these sentiments require that the seeker remain flexible, as different circumstances require nuanced responses. I was particularly struck by "gauging the proper moment." As I've <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/conspirituality" target="_self">written previously</a>, too many people are doubling down on their biases and ignorance right now instead of treating this pandemic head on. </p><blockquote>"The Way has no fixed position; / It abides within the excellent mind. / When the mind is tranquil and the vital breath is regular, / The Way can thereby be halted. / That Way is not distant from us; / When people attain if they are sustained. / That Way is not separated from us; / When people accord with it they are harmonious." — "<em><a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=L24aBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA268&lpg=PA268&dq=The+Way+has+no+fixed+position;+it+abides+within+the+excellent+mind&source=bl&ots=jXnUYXq8j8&sig=ACfU3U3pFrUIzzpijKzZg0hVwkHZFuFWOA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjoj5P7hJvpAhXamXIEHc7dCXsQ6AEwAXoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=The%20Way%20has%20no%20fixed%20position%3B%20it%20abides%20within%20the%20excellent%20mind&f=false" target="_blank">Inward Training</a>"</em></blockquote><p>If you're wondering where the Mandalorians came up with their saying, "<a href="https://filmschoolrejects.com/star-wars-force-taoism/" target="_blank">This is the way</a>," look no further than Taoism. Mando realizing he must rebel against the prescriptive course in order to ensure order (by saving The Child, aka Baby Yoda) is his recognition that there is no "fixed position." Everything is contextual, as this passage from a 4<sup>th</sup> century BCE collection of self-cultivation practices reminds us. </p>
Circa 550 BC, Laotsze, Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism (c 604 - 531 BC) riding an ox.
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images<blockquote>"Change is not something that is carried out abruptly and irrationally. It has its fixed course in which the trends of events develop. Just as we confidently count on the sun rising tomorrow and on spring following winter, so we can be sure that the process of becoming is not chaotic but pursues fixed courses." — Helmut & Richard Welhelm, "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Understanding-I-Ching-Hellmut-Wilhelm/dp/0691001715" target="_blank">Understanding the I Ching</a>"</em></blockquote><p>The "I Ching," or "Book of Changes," is an incredible system that reminds us everything can become its opposite. Yet, as with COVID-19, these changes are not abrupt. They only <em>feel</em> abrupt because we weren't prepared. As I <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/coronavirus-factory-farms" target="_self">wrote about</a> last month, we were warned about the potential for a coronavirus pandemic starting in a Chinese wet market in 2007. Change is inevitable, but we can see it coming, if we know where to look. </p><blockquote>"Is a long life such a good thing if it is lived in daily dread of death or in constant search for satisfaction in a tomorrow which never comes?" — <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/8718099-is-a-long-life-such-a-good-thing-if-it" target="_blank">Alan Watts </a>& Al Chung-liang Huang, "<em>Tao: The Watercourse Way"</em></blockquote><p>Alan Watts was the foremost translator of Taoist and Buddhist thought in the fifties and sixties. This wonderful collaboration with Al Huang is one the first serious inquires into Taoism in the West. As with the foundational texts, they provide a bit of humor alongside insights. Watts once said the problem with the God of the West is that he takes himself too seriously, whereas the gods of the East are playful and dynamic. Be here now, as it goes. </p><blockquote>"The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can't save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly." — Benjamin Hoff, "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Tao-Pooh-Benjamin-Hoff/dp/0140067477" target="_blank">The Tao of Pooh</a>"</em></blockquote><p>Sure, Hoff's feel-good classic is Tao-ish, but I'm pretty sure Laozi would nod his head in agreement with this timeless piece of wisdom. Right now, using your time wisely implies doing your duty in trying to protect our fragile health care system and those most susceptible to disease. To use it foolishly—well, log onto social media. It's rather easy to spot. </p><blockquote>"The <em>Tao Te Ching</em> teaches of three jewels, or characteristics, that man should cherish. They are Compassion, which leads to courage, Moderation, which leads to generosity, and Humility, which leads to leadership." — RZA, "<em><a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=EKvNDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT69&lpg=PT69&dq=The+Tao+Te+Ching+teaches+of+three+jewels+wu-tang&source=bl&ots=OcqZr4UzVZ&sig=ACfU3U1YT1kZuUI_dd73XNNtjn2WuL9Z9Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi-3uLIh5vpAhU_hHIEHdwQCTsQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=The%20Tao%20Te%20Ching%20teaches%20of%20three%20jewels%20wu-tang&f=false" target="_blank">The Wu-Tang Manual</a>"</em></blockquote><p>Who better to sum up the essence of Taoism than one of hip-hop's great masterminds? Three qualities that would make this entire pandemic at least a little bit easier to manage. Nothing is easy right now, yet we don't have to suffer as much as we are when proper leadership arises. Right now, we have to be those leaders. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. His next book is</em> "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</p>
Information is the best armor against panic.
- For most people, getting the coronavirus is not life-threatening.
- Those most at risk are the elderly with pre-existing conditions.
- Things may change as the virus replicates, but here's what you need to know about the risks right now.
As we anxiously watch coronavirus, COVID-19, touch our shores and begin what seems an inexorable march across the United States — as it has been doing across the globe — many of us are naturally wondering, "Just how scared should I be?"
Unfortunately, there's no definitive answer. First of all, the closest you can get is a statement of your odds of dying from COVID-19. Second, viruses mutate, so the best information only reflects what's been seen prior to now. Most of what we know so far comes from the virus' impact in China, where it began.
As of the first week of March 2020, the odds of dying from COVID-19 on average are 2.3%, though that number varies depending on your age.
Your odds of contracting the disease, however, are much higher and dependent on where you are and how much interpersonal contact you have. For the vast majority of people, COVID-19 is not life-threatening. According to one first-hand account published by The Washington Post, having the virus may be an easily tolerated experience. Still, it's best to avoid it altogether if you can.
As of this moment, here are the groups with the greatest risk of dying from COVID-19.
The elderly illCHINA WUHAN COVID-19 HOSPITAL
Image source: Barcroft Media/Contributor
Based on China's experience with the coronavirus, your chances of acquiring a fatal case of COVID-19 have a lot to do with your age:
- Age | Death Rate
- 80+ | 14.8%
- 70-79 | 8.0%
- 60-69 | 3.6%
- 50-59 | 1.3%
- 40-49 | 0.4%
- 30-39 | 0.2%
- 20-29 | 0.2%
- 10-19 | 0.2%
- 0-9 | no fatalities
Older people with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are at even higher risk. A study of deaths in Wuhan, China where the disease originated breaks down more interested facts:
Most of the death cases were male (65.9%). More than half of dead patients were older than 60 years (80.5%) and the median age was 72.5 years. The bulk of death cases had comorbidity (76.8%), including hypertension (56.1%), heart disease (20.7%), diabetes (18.3%), cerebrovascular disease (12.2%), and cancer (7.3%).
GenderWedding Ceremony In Leishenshan Hospital
Image source: China News Service/Getty
As noted above, COVID-19 is more fatal for men than women, based on a study of Chinese statistics. This may be influenced by the greater incidence of smoking — which may also increase one's susceptibility to COVDI-19 — among Chinese men.
That being said, special precaution is also good idea for women who are or are planning to be pregnant. The CDC says:
We do not have information on adverse pregnancy outcomes in pregnant women with COVID-19. Pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, has been observed in cases of infection with other related coronaviruses SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV during pregnancy. High fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects.
What to watch out for and what to doConcerns COVID-19 Cases Are Going Unreported In Southeast Asia
As you wait for your local store to re-stock their supply of hand sanitizer, you'll want to keep an eye out for possible COVID-19 symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
Though COVID-19 tests are still not widely available, if you think you could be sick, contact your physician immediately.
If you have coronavirus, follow the CDC's guidelines:
- Stay at home except to get medical care.
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
- Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
- Wear a face mask.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Wash your hands often.
- Avoid sharing personal household items.
- Clean all "high-touch" surfaces every day.
- Monitor your symptoms.
When the virus passes, the CDC recommends extending the period of isolation just to be safe.
Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain under home isolation precautions until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to be low. The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.