What’s going to happen to us? You don’t know. I don’t know. Our leaders don’t know. Even the experts don’t seem to know. And, what do humans fear? We fear the unknown. Please, allow me to attempt to allay any fears you may harbor as I place a stoic thumb on the scale and try and tip the balance back towards courage, peace and acceptance.
Do not be not afraid.
That which is unknown activates our ancient fight or flight mechanism and helps us to survive. This, however, is a primitive evolutionary strategy. Designed only for short bursts, it’s a strategy which diverts all bodily energy away from “unnecessary” functions like sexual reproduction, cell regeneration and your immune system. Once you, hopefully, get away from the tiger jumping from the bushes to turn you into lunch, the fight or flight response turns off and your body functions return to normal.
This beneficial system can, however, become problematic if it is left turned-on for extended periods of time. Fear over time is called stress. It is a well documented fact that stress is detrimental to a persons health. This is likely due to the fact that it diverts energy from our immune system. Also, if we train our bodies to live in a state of fear, we develop anxiety and our bodies will learn to spring into fight or flight for no apparent reason. We call these panic attacks. In this time of pandemic, fear, anxiety, stress, and panic attacks are counterproductive, especially when we need our immune systems more energized than ever.
Do not be not afraid.
Fear is all about death. More specifically, it’s a tool geared toward avoiding death. Americans, in general, do not do a very good job at accepting death as an inevitable part of life, though death comes to us all. The connection we seem to overlook is that life is so beautiful and precious because of the very fact that it is limited. That is, death is the very reason why life is so glorious. Life without death would be cheap and, I’m certain, squandered (“I’ll get to get to the whole personal growth and creativity thing next century”). Of course, life is so sweet that it’s only natural we seek to delay its end as long as possible.
Our fears, like our politics, present a divide in thinking. Some are afraid if we return to our normal lives too quickly, much unnecessary hardship and death will result. Others are afraid if we DON’T quickly return to our normal lives, much unnecessary hardship and death will result. Both sides are afraid. Which side is right? Both are right. So, why do we fight? Will hate, anger and a lack of composure help matters?
The energies of our souls have been so sapped by fear that we are unaware of the inconsistencies in our reasoning. I’ve heard it said we are in a war. Our highest politicians fancy themselves war leaders. In war, people are prepared to sacrifice lives to preserve culture. Are we not now doing the exact opposite, and sacrificing our culture to save lives? What message does that offer the memory of those who gave their lives to preserve our way of life? Does not our cowardliness dishonor their courage? We’ve thought it proper to send millions of our young men in the prime of their lives around the world to fight and, in many cases, die for our way of life. Now, we shut down our way of life so that thousands might live just a short while longer. Ten years from now will it matter much to us if Grandma died in the Spring of 2020 or the Fall of 2020? All we’ll remember is that she died in 2020. Her health was already compromised. If this virus does not get her, another very shortly will. “Hold on, now!” you may say. “How crass and easy you are with the lives of the elderly! You can’t put a price on Grandma getting to enjoy one more birthday with the family! It’s priceless!” Look, I have two grandparents in their mid to late 90’s, who are constantly in and out of the hospital. I want to keep them around as long as possible too. I’m just trying to illustrate a point about how we change our attitudes about fear based on our perspective. Why do we protect the elderly in one situation but not youth in another? Why do we send people with their whole lives before them to fight a war to preserve culture and then sacrifice that same culture to save the life of people with their lives almost wholly behind them? Why is grandma sacrificing one more birthday party any more tragic than a granddaughter having to sacrifice the only prom or high school graduation she will ever experience?
Do not be not afraid.
Those who don’t have a problem with sending our youth to die in foreign lands are not the only ones experiencing an inconsistency in normal thinking. So, also, do those who, on so many issues, stand on the other side of the political spectrum.
Many times I’ve heard environmentally conscious people on the left speak poetically of a delicate world ecosystem which needs to be left alone to function in the harmony that is nature’s perfection. These “green” nature advocates were successful at banning the insecticide DDT because it was shown powerfully in the 1960’s book ‘Silent Spring’ to cause the thinning of eggshells which might have lead to the possible extinctions of certain types of birds. DDT had been used to fight malaria in countries both rich and poor. Its banning caused the deaths of millions of human beings in Africa. South America, Asia and the world over through outbreaks of malaria. Why were we not afraid of the deaths of these, mostly impoverished, people? Was it because it only preserved the balance of nature? I hear it often from the likes of environmental groups that human population is out of control and destroying the balance of nature. Would not Covid-19 be proof that Mother Earth can handle her own battles and send forth her viral troops to keep the balance of nature and human population in check? Why do so many of the people who have spoken of a delicate ecosystem now wish to use human ingenuity to save lives against the wishes of Mother Nature? Even “green” San Francisco has returned to allowing plastic shopping bags to prevent the spread of nature’s attempt at gaining re-balance. Again, I’m not trying to say that it is right or wrong for man to fight nature to save human lives or to stand aside and allow nature to take its course. I’m only trying to illustrate how fear can fundamentally change the perspective viewpoint of an individual to the point of hypocrisy.
Yes, when people who are usually fine with sacrificing our youth for the country and now won’t sacrifice the elderly for for our country, I call it hypocrisy. And, when people who are usually fine with sacrificing the spread of mankind to save the ecosystem, but now want to sacrifice nature’s attempt at balance to save the spread of mankind, I call it hypocrisy. Hell, many of the people who three years ago were certain our President was a authoritarian power usurper in the making are now crying out that the President has not seized and wielded enough authoritarian government power in fighting Covid-19. What can make hypocrites out of so many people? What can make them turn against what they were all so sure of for so long? Fear.
Do not be afraid.
The Butcher’s Bill
If we go back to our normal lives, people die. If we do not go back to our normal lives, people die. Either way, many people will die. So, what do we do? We all lose either way. Our political leaders know this and fight to control the narrative. When death is the only choice, there is no way to win. All politicians can do is ensure that it is their opponents who are to blame. Keep the economy closed, people die. Open the economy, and people die. There will be someone out there who screams and spreads political blame over a single Covid-19 death caused by a return to our normal lives, crying: “Not a single life is worth sacrificing to the economy and its worship of money!”
What the cries of an individual such as this neglect to understand when they deride the word: economy, is that the word economy is only a word to stand in for the concept of our cumulative livelihoods. When people say lives are more important than the economy, what they are saying is that lives are more important than our livelihoods. As if our lives and our livelihoods could be disentangled. As if one could exist without the other. No, if we hold off economic considerations until the world was safe from all death, then we would all quickly perish. The economy, and our livelihoods which it represents, has always operated under the pretense that to survive we must be able to stomach some risk. A classic example of our ability to stomach such risk is the amount of lives we are willing to lose to auto accidents. Tens of thousands of people per year is not enough to ban cars. Millions die worldwide every year from work related accidents and disease. Should we ban work? We could likely delay tens and tens of thousands of influenza deaths every year by shuttering the economy each winter. We don’t ban cars and we don’t shutter the economy every winter because we are willing to accept a certain amount of risk and death to live our lives.
We have always been a species of risk takers. We crossed oceans for months on tiny wooden boats for a better livelihood. We crossed unknown wilderness in wagon trains for a better livelihood. We’ve stood up to powerful tyrants for a better livelihood. Have we now allowed ourselves to be so frightened by those who gain from fear (politicians) that we will sacrifice our way of life to their fears? Death is a part of life. Poverty and dependency don’t have to be.
We must return to our normal lives and livelihoods. It’s not death we must fear, but not living. Yes, many people, already ripe for death, will die. Life goes on. I’m sure I’ll hear: “That’s easy for you to say. You’re on the lucky side of 50!” I am, thankfully, on the lucky side of 50. I also live with an auto immune disease which weakens my defenses. I am at risk as much as anyone. Still, I say, strike up the band and on with the dance!
Do not be afraid.
Yes, take precaution. Wash your hands. If you are high risk, self-quarantine. Wear a mask. Avoid theaters and ballgames if you must. Greet by touching elbows. Do whatever you have to do, but don’t forsake your time on this Earth. Do not be afraid. Fear is stress and stress weakens your immune system. Squelch your fear and go boldly.
The photo-quotes throughout the post above were pulled from Christian-Judaeo, Buddhist and Pagan traditions. Though they all have differences, they have one thing in common. All these traditions seem to know that fear clouds our judgement. They know that our world is, at the same time, both a beautiful and dangerous place. They know, when it comes nature (humans are a different story), it is not inherently good or evil. They know that life is a gift while survival is not. And, they know that our bodies may die, but that our souls are eternal.
There was once a planet ruled by animals that was struck by an existential disaster. They all perished. Was it horrible? Stoically speaking: Yes, and no. It was good and bad. It depends on your point of view. Dinosaur extinction was terrible, but it was also wonderful, as it allowed other species, like us, to arise. Fear subdues when you realize good things can come from bad events. Perhaps, the next generation of amazing doctors and scientists will arise because of this pandemic. After all, Issac Newton helped to create modern science by discovering the laws of gravity during the Bubonic plague.
Don’t let the media control the narrative of your mind. If they control your mind, they control you and they know it. The media is biased toward an “If it bleeds, it leads” subjective point of view. They want you scared and tuning-in. Stay objective. Be a fearless philosopher warrior.
Do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid…Unless, your are my family and the Wine & Spirit stores remain closed much longer. Then, be afraid. Be very afraid. Perhaps, that is what this whole rant has been about. My own fear of not having my wine and the ingredients for my cocktails. Please, open up the Wine & Spirit stores again.