You Are Contagious

22 Mar 2020

Did you know you are contagious?

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, we’re all thinking a lot about how we can potentially infect each other (or not!). In fact, we are highly infectious all the time. We exert incredible influence on each other. We carry ideas and spread them. We communicate various levels of goodness and pain, light and dark, life and death.

We could say that the spread of ideas is like the spread of a virus. But it is more accurate to say that viruses spread like ideas, though social networks. You spread who you are and what you value all the time.

Most of the world has an identity that is tied to their group. Africans, Asians, Latinos and Middle Easterners have a sense of connection; they know they need each other, so the effort is put to the common good. 

However, those of European descent tend to have a very individualistic view of life. Self-identity tends to be self-contained; we like our independence.

Science is beginning to back up the non-Western view of life, that we are all connected in ways that we are only beginning to understand.

In the documentary, I AM,  Tom Shadyac documents his search for meaning. He is a successful filmmaker whose credits include Bruce Almighty, The Nutty Professor, and Ace Ventura.

After sustaining a head trauma that limited his life, Shadyac set out to find true significance. In searching for what’s wrong with the world, he actually discovered much of what’s right.

His film contains interviews with remarkable men and women who work in science, philosophy, and faith (including Bishop Desmond Tutu).

One unlikely finding is the extent to which we’re all connected. Really. You may think you’re an island, but you’re not. You are connected to other people, atoms, plants, people, and even yogurt. Yes, he showed one experiment that registered the effects of his thoughts and emotions on YOGURT!

The thumbprint of a common designer is on everything in our world. And it seems to be our heart that drives us, not our brains. Did you know you have heart intelligence?

Shadyac learned that cooperation, not competition, is in our DNA. And the world operates better when cooperation is in full-blown action.

The film’s website says, “I AM shows consensus decision-making is the norm amongst many species, from insects and birds to deer and primates.  The film further discovers that humans actually function better and remain healthier when expressing positive emotions, such as love, care, compassion, and gratitude, versus their negative counterparts, anxiety, frustration, anger, and fear.”

A fundamental principle that I teach my communication students is that WE ARE CONTAGIOUS. And I don’t just mean our germs. We affect each other. If I am happy, sad, angry, anxious, forgiving, loving…no matter what, I (usually without knowing it) communicate my thoughts and feelings to others. Knowing this is also a reason to consider with whom you hang out. People you spend time with actually affect you, and you affect them.

This is why I try to pay attention to the encounters I have. For example, I smile at and try to get a grocery checker to laugh. Think about all the customers they encounter in a single day; some are nice and appreciative; others are unkind and generally horrible. If I can influence the mood of that grocery worker in a positive way, I believe they are likely to pass that spirit on to all the others they encounter. Fear can be infectious; so can kindness.

We are not islands. We are entangled beyond our awareness. The spread of a world-wide pandemic is a stark reminder of that.

Being stuck at home, many of us are spending a lot of time on social media. What a lovely opportunity to positively infect others with love, kindness, and understanding.

A quote by sporting coach Al Munoz makes the point: “If you’re not happy in life then you need to change, calibrate, readjust…flush your negative energy and fill it with positive energy; How do we do that you might ask? Well, I would start by making others happy; diseases are not the only things that spread easily. We are all connected in some form of unseen energy… think how those around you will impact you and make you feel if they were happy?”

A spiritual leader named Paul once wrote to some communities in what is modern-day Turkey. He wrote a prayer that they would be encouraged and “knit together in love.”**

You can catch I AM  DVD from Amazon and other retailers.

*Read about the film at:

** The Bible: Colossians 2:2


Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash



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