Double Take: on the Coronavirus Crisis

A dialogue with ROWENA J RONSON

NS: We are in the midst of a great crisis. And we have no idea when and how it will end. All we can do is get through each day, doing our best to cope. But, in a way, isn’t this how life is – always? Isn’t the big difference now that the crisis has been so intensified that we have to pay attention to the reality of what is happening?

RJR: It is a great leveller, Nigel. Time for us to step back as a species and take a great big look at ourselves. Time to be with ourselves and see what bubbles up inside of ourselves, individually and as a species, that we were ignoring before. Time to be real. Time to address our fears. Time to take responsibility for our actions. Time to respect time – and life itself. 

NS: I agree it is a leveller – but only up to a point. The poor and disadvantaged and chronically ill are all at a distinct disadvantage compared with the rich and privileged – but yes, even the latter are having to face their mortality a lot more directly. This is all part of this “time to be real”. Food supplies, good health and caring for one another have all now become more important in many people’s lives than TV “reality” shows, entertainment and escapism. But perhaps the changes that take place as a result of this crisis will be more unconscious than conscious.

RJR: I totally agree about the ‘levelling’. My hope is that the more advantaged among our species will open their hearts to those who are less fortunate. As the virus sweeps our planet and moves to countries and populations where there is great poverty, we will have a growing awareness (and hopefully compassion) for communities who are unable to self-distance, or to have fresh water to keep them safe or support systems on any level to keep them well and protected. 

NS: I fear the powers that be only want to turn the clock back rather than forward. But that would be a tremendous failure to learn the lesson of this crisis. Many of us, deep down, know that we need a fundamental change of direction in the way we take care of ourselves and each other. Isn’t it bizarre that at a time when people are keeping their distance from each other, that they are potentially closer together than ever before?

RJR: Do you feel it is bizarre? I don’t. People being forced into isolation have an opportunity to really think about things. This is a great opportunity to look at ourselves and our relationships and be really real with ourselves and others. 

NS: I suppose I meant it was kind of ironic that “distance” has brought us closer together. But yes, in this new life – which seems to be something like a cross between a holiday, a retreat and a prison – we are perhaps beginning to see ourselves and others anew. At a time when we cannot leave home or go out for the evening or go travelling, it seems that the journey that we can take is a one of inner discovery.

RJR: It is interesting, isn’t it. Distance has brought us Focus. So what have you been discovering about yourself?

NS: A good question… and I think the real answer is still to come. But I think I have been looking ever-increasingly into mortality. Everything in nature – the light, the trees, the flowers, the birds etc – is seen more sharply now. And with that comes the inescapable fact that the leaves “reappearing” on the trees have, in fact, never been here before. They will be here this year and then gone. Like the leaves, like a coronavirus, every one of us is just passing through… living and dying. And that leads, for me, into the question what actually am I? And the answer to that may be: nothing… or an hallucination… The other thing clearly taught by this crisis is that we can only count on being here today… And we may have only today to answer the questions that gnaw away at us. 

RJR/NS: So what do our readers think? 

Rowena J Ronson (pictured above) is a practitioner offering an holistic integration of functional medicine, homeopathy and transformational coaching and counselling

Under the banner of “Double Take”, Rowena and Nigel have been jointly writing columns and dialogues for health journals and websites for the past 15 years.

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health, and blogs at

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