I think the most difficult aspect of the pandemic is the uncertainty. We humans do not make decisions well, nor do we live comfortably, under conditions of uncertainty.
“Better a thousand years of tyranny than one day of anarchy,” is an ancient saying that comes to mind. Right now, we are living under extreme chaos — the anarchy — of this virus that is disrupting our “order,” everything we know. It is not something we appreciate. We have a genetic need for order which is closely linked to our need for security and our drive to survive. We are hard-wired to be uncomfortable in this situation right now, so if you are stressed out or bothered or feel depressed by this pandemic, you are not alone. We all feel it to one degree or another.
At the same time, while most of us find degrees of comfort on the flip side of this pandemic — cases of humanity helping humanity — for some reason, it seems to fall short of adequately counter-balancing the weight of this chaos. Again, this is “normal.” Going back to behavior theory, risk aversion is a far stronger drive than the drive for rewards, which is why life insurance is sold not as a reward but as a comfort against loss.
I think this pandemic is more of a “process” than a tangible, knowable “thing.” It is not static. It evolves, and what we see and understand today often has little to do with what is happening or the impact that will become visible and knowable tomorrow. It is maddening. It is “conditions of uncertainty” on steroids. I am sitting in the bleachers watching “evolution live” played out right in front of me on the 50-yard line.
I believe that what is occurring to us — the emergence of this virus — is naturally occurring within our “closed system” and not some nut-case conspiracy being propagated and promoted on the Internet. At some point we, collectively, must stop assuming that just because we watched a video or read about something “on the Internet,” it must be true. No, it must not, necessarily be even a little bit true.
We can’t allow ourselves to fall into that crevasse. We must get back to thinking, reading, researching and investing in the hard work necessary to know what is true and what is not. It takes work.
This pandemic humbles me like I never imagined I could be humbled. It forcefully picks me up daily — hourly. It informs me that I am not in control and that, for all our intelligence, science, resources, and knowledge, we really don’t know or control squat. The mountain I thought we perched upon looking down at all the flora and fauna in the world below us, now feels more like a plateau upon which all living things exist on an equal footing, together.
This pandemic impacts us all the same, yet each of us will deal with it in our individual way.
I found myself searching for answers yesterday, reaching out to a few people I admire and respect who happen to be either physicians or simply very smart people. I need someone to give me a small dose of comfort and confidence. Yes, that’s it, just a shot of “we’ll get through this thing.” I know we will, but I want to hear it from another.
“What’s your opinion? What is your guess? What do you think”
That was last night, and so far, this mid-morning I have no replies. They’re probably just ignoring me. Don’t blame them. Of course, they don’t “know,” but I wasn’t looking for a pronouncement of fact, just one of comfort. So, I comfort myself and review what I know.
My 65 years on this earth confirms to me that everything is cyclical — from the environment, the economy, politics and war to medical breakthroughs and changes in art, music, sports — everything. And that includes pandemics. We’ve been through other pandemics or semi-pandemics before. We survived. History is the best predictor of the future. Even back when we didn’t have the benefit of the science or the technology that we have today, mankind made it through.
We have super-computers that now process over a quintillion instructions per second (ips) and are getting faster. We have A1 which is I am sure evolving on a parallel path with processor speed. And, and here is where I feel somewhat like a fool and a disappointment to myself, I seem to find perhaps the most comfort in my belief that the financial incentive to find a vaccine or a cure surely will yield the answer within a relatively short time — I mean months and not a lot of them. Of course, if that was a fact, then cancer and Alzheimer’s would be fixed now, but I will choose to not let that rain on my belief parade today — “belief bias” in action!
An hour at a time is my mandate. That is how I need to process today and tomorrow. I am sure your approach is similar — whatever works for you. We need positive attitudes, compassion, awareness, trust, faith and empathy. Those are some of the tools God gave us to get through things like this. As Jackie Littlefield, who was a principal at Alpharetta Elementary when my kids went there, and one of my heroes, used to say, “we can.”
Therefore, we will. Chin up!