“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” FDR
These wise words from another time of International upheaval, threat, and loss, can still serve as a touchstone as we navigate a range of events unprecedented in our lifetime.
Up to this writing, 20,911 people worldwide have died from Covid-19, of 463,342 reported cases. The number of actual cases is no doubt much higher, even as the death toll mounts by the hour. There is universal agreement among public health experts that “Sheltering in Place” is the best way to slow the spread of the virus. There is far from universal acceptance of this policy or even understanding of what it means to live as safely as you can and not risk contracting or spreading the disease. As the intention of this Blog is to highlight responses to feelings around the pandemic, for information I refer you to either the CDC website or the WHO.
I’ve dealt with tragic current events before on this site, and the feelings evoked by them. Never have we experienced or dealt with anything of the magnitude of the Covid-19 epidemic. I see fear, frustration, grief, anger, dark humor, and enormous stress all around me,and in the news, whether it be local, regional, national, or international. Not surprisingly, people are managing these feelings, and the crisis, in a variety of ways ranging from admirable and even heroic down to venial and despicable. Without question, this pandemic is a referendum on human’s ability to cope, to care, to endure, and to survive.
As always in a crisis, those with greater resources are called upon to come to the aid of those who struggle even in the absence of critical shortages, threats to health and well-being, and colossal uncertainty. We are in a situation where our own ability to cope and be good citizens of the world is sorely tested.
I was raised in a spiritual milieu where “examine your conscience” was a common refrain. This is always important but never more than when the survival of countless millions of people is at stake.
We are seeing maladaptiave behaviors like hoarding of essential supplies (panic buying), Coronavirus “parties”, disregard of public health warnings, and complete denial of reality. To call these fear reactions “maladaptive” is perhaps excessively kind. In truth, they are a blatant disregard of the Golden Rule. If a pandemic cannot get people to realize that we are all interdependent then nothing will.
We also see acts of generosity, selflessness, creativity, and fortitude under pressure. In an ultimate test of what we’re made of, some are failing miserably and others are rising to the challenge with grace and grit. Most of us perhaps are somewhere in the middle, simply trying to protect ourselves and our families, while remaining true to our values.
This is not a time to focus on preserving a way of life, a lifestyle, or a position in the social order. When all of that is stripped away, what we have is our common humanity. When we are feeling vulnerable as perhaps never before, let our very vulnerability be an asset. Strap yourselves in, ground yourselves spiritually, and yes, examine your conscience. If this is a reckoning, let us vow to emerge from this crisis humbled, honorable, chastened, and charitable as never before.