It’s real, folks. Life is a different. We’re not in Kansas anymore, and Toto the dog is banned from the beach.
As I talk with patients it’s clear many cannot fully acknowledge that their present state of being is materially different from before. Many tell me they can’t place what’s going on but that they feel they’re in a dream-like movie, cast as someone else.
During the London blitz the bars were open until the sirens blared. Now the sirens run all day and night, though not loudly; more an irritating, mechanical hum. There are no bombers, evil-doers, terrorists to face, just a doorknob whose touch might, just might, kill you. People walk around wondering if they’re scared too much or not scared enough.
History lends support and oversight. People have survived pestilence innumerable times. Our basic biological intelligence sees us through. It’s true we’re genetically programmed to survive as a species rather than as individuals, but for the species to survive so must we. So nature has graced us with untold secret capacities for resilience. So far this pestilence is not anywhere in the league of the great killers of modern mankind, like cholera or Spanish flu. There was a time one out of seven people died of Tuberculosis. That won’t happen.
But we can do a lot to make sure it won’t happen. We can recognize that we need to cooperate a lot more than has been the lodestar of American civilization at least back to the publication of “The Culture Of Narcissism” in 1979. Viruses are not species specific. They are not nation specific. We are a single species, and it’s time to act like one.
So don’t fight over toilet paper or hand sanitizer. Recognize that people in China and Iran suffer in the same way as people in Milan and Seattle. Help those who need to be helped. Thank those who keep our lives going, the people who grow and transport our food, who turn on the lights and keep them on. If older folks are “self isolated” in their apartments, talk to them on the phone. Let them know you know.
In Henry V, the king prepares for battle at Agincourt telling his troops they will remember where they were on St. Crispian’s day, that others will consider themselves “accursed they were not here.” Many regard Covid-19 as a curse, but I’ll bet you will remember where you were and what you did over the next few weeks. Try to make yourself proud of that future memory.