In these very contingent times, I keep thinking of the lines of Rudyard Kipling's poem of contingency, "If":
"If you can keep your head when all about you, are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, yet make allowance for their doubting, too . . . "
As Covid-19 crowds out all the other news, it has the potential for crowding out all thought.
Although we must pay attention for our own health's sake and that of all whom we care about, nonetheless the more we learn, the less we know for certain.
While the advice from medical experts is sound - wash hands for full 20 seconds and dry thoroughly, keep a distance from others, avoid crowds - now self isolate - report symptoms or exposure etc - all good, but it's still a game of risk and of statistics.
And because the degree of individual risk is not a certainty, but a probability the order of which has to remain uncertain until it isn't, we are left to fill in the blanks of factually based reasoning with our reptilian brain's preparedness for fight or flight, which may in all likelihood lead us in the wrong direction.
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Fear, the great motivator, while it revs up the body's metabolic engine, energising the long muscles we needed to escape from our primitive forbears' sabre-toothed tiger, simultaneously diminishes the inner system's immune defences against this tiny possible invader.
Worry about what may be coming does little to help us cope with what is.
A useful counter to such a fruitless worry may be the words of actor Mark Rylance, showing little anxiety, facing possible but not certain death as Russian spy (Bridge of Spies, 2015) Rudolph Abel: "Will it help?" It's a cold-water face splash back to reality.
It's all too human to act out the buying impulse, panic buying, as a hedge against the feeling of powerlessness in the face of the virus threat, feelings that often accompany the grief of significant loss, whether actual-- like the loss of a loved one--or anticipated like a looming loss of job in a faltering economy.
It's an attempt at a personal "flattening of the curve," - doing something concrete and momentarily empowering in the face of looming powerlessness. It's understandable but self-defeating, acting out of fear.
It reflects a withdrawal from the common stock of goodwill, the feeling that we can share and that others will share with us.
That goodwill is the backstop to the sense of aloneness that, by itself, can only worsen our preparedness.
A degree of valid comfort can be taken from the fact that our government is clearly rational, not motivated by a need to politicise the data interpretation. Ultimately, that means, that here, where the government is us, and not some wizard behind a curtain, that we are reliant upon the ability of all of us to behave co-operatively.
Our public health advisory aims to slow and flatten the curve of infection rates, to allow for the health system to sustain adequate care, and not become overwhelmed.
Our private need is to flattening the internal curve of anxiety, by slowing our emotional response to allow our reason and the better angels of our nature to mitigate the fear that uncertainty promotes, and which can overwhelm us with helplessness.
Fortunately, there are things we can do that are already part of our custom in our resilience as communities.
In addition to informing ourselves of the facts of what's happening, and what we need to do, we can focus our effort on contacting and offering help to others, to neighbours and friends, especially the vulnerable and those made vulnerable through the economic stricture needed to deal with Covid-19.
Kindness benefits both giver and receiver.
It turns out there is safety in numbers, after all. If we all act together, we're more likely to survive and come through with moral intactness, physically and emotionally safe.