Listen to yourself

The third voice

Being home now, trying to do my part to flatten the curve of the Coronavirus, has sealed for me something that I already knew. There are people from all corners of the world who want our attention. They want to sale us something, convince us of something, make it unquestionably clear that what they have to say should somehow be construed as the irrefutable truth. One thing is obvious, if we don’t have ideas of our own, these hawkers of opinions can get inside our heads and lead us about like a tamed animal with a bit in its mouth.

Have you ever really paid close attention to the 24/7 news cycle and the purveyors of its content? Not only is there so-called unbiased news reporting, but there’s a good amount of opinion being injected into the minds of listeners, too. We really can’t watch television, read a newspaper or a magazine, without listening to advertisements that have been psychologically tailored for our senses to solicit a specific response. How do written advertisements get us to listen? Come on, don’t you hear something when you see a written message that attracts you? Upon hearing, can’t you see something, and even desire something if the message sparks interest for what it’s hawking?  Sometimes, we may not give a whole lot of attention at the time we first encounter an advertisement. It might be sometime later when the jingle, the sound, the image replays in our minds, and we may not remember from where we were exposed. These conversations are one-sided and often not for our benefit.

I want to ask you something. When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with yourself? No, I’m not talking about some schizoid mental short circuitry that someone might hear and wonder if you’re ready for the folks in the white coats, or whatever color they’re wearing these days. I’m talking about thinking, mulling over things with which your senses are dealing continually. Let me say here that if you’re reading this, I’m grateful that you’ve taken some of your valuable time to listen to what I have to say; however, I implore you to do more than listen.  I ask that you do what the title of this musing indicates: listen to yourself, too. What do you have to say about what I’m saying? The opinions of others should never be the end all on any subject, even when the truth about what is being said is overwhelmingly obvious. Invite that third voice to the conversation to interpret, give feedback, to let you know whether this makes sense or not.

One of the unfortunate things I see happening these days is too many people don’t have that most intimate of conversations. As offensive as this might be, there are folks who defy the adage about leading a horse to water only to discover it won’t drink. Maybe the horse is smarter than its usher, maybe the horse doesn’t want any water, especially not that to which it’s being led. There seems to be masses of people these days, who listen, get drunk with emotion and act in a manner that’s not of benefit to themselves or the greater society. I’m sure the conversation you’re having with yourself right now has garnered some examples.

When I was child, one of the first life-saving pieces of advice adults gave me about crossing the road was: stop, look, and listen. The next opportunity you have to sit down to read, turn on the television to look and listen, or have a conversation with someone who seems interesting, have that intimate conversation and listen to that third voice giving you feedback about what you’re  hearing from the outside.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

What’s in the numbers?

As of 11 pm Central Standard Time, May 12, 2,000, there were 4,261,955 cases of the Coronavirus worldwide, and 291,964 deaths. In the United States, 1,369,574 cases and 82,376 deaths. In my tiny state of Arkansas, U.S.A., with 3 million people, the numbers were 4,164 cases and 95 deaths. Each day, I look at these numbers when I read my local newspaper. Early on, I would read them with an attitude of shock, and some fear of the sheer enormity of the increasing statistics. This morning, and for a few weeks now, I’ve focused on another aspect of these numbers. One that the media probably has no ability to address. These numbers represent losses, losses to the fabric of humankind.

The daily report of the numbers of souls, who have succumbed to the onslaught of the Coronavirus, can seem cold and sanitized. I’m sure there are data collectors around the globe who do their best to give us accurate data on how the virus is culling the peoples of the world. In my mind, I can see strikes through numbers of five at a time. Of course, I know the data are kept in a more sophisticated manner than that, but that’s how my mind works at times. I see marks on a poster board with strikes through them. Each mark has a head, a torso, arms, legs, rudimentary representations of bodies.

Sadly, I have found myself also thinking about who these people are whenever I hear reports of the increasing tally of victims. These are assets to the world that we will no longer have; one of them  could have found the cure for all the cancers that plague us, one could have discovered a way to produce energy that no longer pollutes the planet, one might have found a common rallying point for global solidarity. Alright, maybe those are just too highfaluting, but they were wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, neighbors of all kinds, people who made the world a better place within their small circle of influence.

Quite frankly, it has become just to darn depressing to listen to the updates about Covid-19. The numbers of victims seem almost like the work of an advancing army, equipped with weaponry that makes defeat too far out there for us to even envision what victory is likely to look like. Last night, I had difficulty nodding off for my nightly rest. I got out of bed more times than I can remember. I even found myself on the back deck of our house lifting weights, in hopes that my fatigued body would surrender itself to much needed sleep. It didn’t work, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Chris told me what I already knew, I was suffering from anxiety. The mind knows what’s on it even when the body doesn’t. There’s one thing I must come to terms with via body, mind and soul: The Covid-19 victims are more than numbers; however, what I can do is make contributions to foodbanks, volunteer to help in whatever safe manner I can; practice social distancing to help prevent spread of the virus and pray to my Creator that this tool of the reaper will become dull and ineffective as soon as possible. My anxiety offers no help at all.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Nothing new under the sun (Son)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

The preceding, of course, comes from the preamble to the fourth book of the New Testament, the Book of John. I’m finding myself turning to the Bible to seek light from ageless text to help me in mitigating the spiritual, emotional and mental strains the worldwide pandemic has brought to bear. I call it ageless, because although it was written during ancient times, its applicability is timeless. It deals with issues humankind has struggled with sense before historical records were ever produced. These are the strangest of times that I have ever dealt with. Sure, I’ve gone through other times of challenge, such as the civil rights movement; the Vietnam War; civil unrest, resulting in burning and destruction in major urban centers; the horrors of 911; however, nothing like this. Just to give you a sense of scale, I draw your attention to the fact that more Americans have died during this pandemic than perished during the Vietnam war. God forbid we matched the 675,000 souls lost during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.

The current pandemic is like a world war with no clear battle plan. No one seems to be able to figure out the logistics necessary to effectively deploy the troops. All the world leaders are trying to fight this war, but they don’t seem to be in concert. If there’s a common enemy that’s posing a major threat to humankind, shouldn’t there be a common rallying point for all corners of the world? Look at us, we’re still involved in local and regional scrimmages all over the place. Geopolitical dynamics are unfolding as normal as anyone would expect. We talk about a new normal; however, folks are talking about getting back to business as before.

I sat in on a Zoom conference call recently with several leaders of my local church. The purpose of the call was to figure out a strategy for getting back together physically for worship and fellowship. The discussion was far reaching, but it seemed a bit unfocused. That’s not meant as a negative criticism, but rather a definition of a stroll through unfamiliar territory. But was the territory unfamiliar? Didn’t our great grandparents have to deal with many of these same issues during and after the Spanish Flu pandemic, previously mentioned? Didn’t they wrestle with the strain of being locked in at home? Didn’t they get back out too soon in some cases, causing pockets of resurgence of the disease? One would think we would retrospectively learn from what they did wrong and not repeat it. One would also think that the improvements in public health systems would put us in better position to weather this worldwide storm of 2020 than the folks of 1918.

If there’s one thing life has taught me it’s that the human model and how we address all issues of existence, remains basically the same. We continue millennium after millennium to be driven by the same things, greed, love, lust of all kinds, hatred and all the motivational seeds that grow in the garden of human experience. How will there ever be anything new under the sun, given that normality?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Senseless, plain senseless

I just finished my morning read of the daily newspaper. I’m not having a lot of success at forgetting an article that is still weighing heavily on my mind. It was about some people in Mexico being upset with healthcare workers to the point of physically attacking them. The article highlighted a nurse, on her way home from working a shift a hospital. Some deranged individual threw a concoction of bleach and something else at her, in an insane protest that she was spreading the coronavirus.

I have tried, with what I consider little accuracy, to understand human behavior, especially when community is faced with a threat. Of course, the coronavirus is a threat of global, even Biblical proportions. I can appreciate fear, but fear expressed in a violent manner against those who are on the frontlines, putting their lives at risk to protect the life and limbs of others is more than mind boggling. The article I read, which reported the incident of the nurse, detailed other cases in Mexico where this is happening.

This article caused me to think of other instances of irrational behavior that exemplifies our inability to act in one accord whenever threats occur. When I read the newspaper, watch news reports, it’s obvious to me that there isn’t a cohesive world approach to fighting this viral, invisible onslaught against humanity. Politicians, you know those government folks who are in those stately chambers, put in place to serve, seem to be just too nationalistic in everything they do regarding the coronavirus. What would it take for the world to come together when a threat emerges, aliens from out of space? Hollywood has given us many a saga where such threats have resulted in a consolidation of efforts, across national boundaries to fight against threats to humankind. Logic becomes the best approach. You know, the coronavirus is a case of life imitating art from a negative perspective. Maybe we could imitate art positively: Come together globally, despite our differences, and throw everything we have at this deadly enemy that’s killing us. Something tells me that our scientists would flourish in their research if this were to happen.

Instead of focusing on the apparent enemy, the coronavirus, we have fingers being pointed: Who’s responsible for developing this thing? Was it a laboratory experiment gone awry? Can we indict some one in the eye of world public opinion? Meanwhile, I see little effort being directed toward the possibility that the coronavirus is symptomatic of all the wrong stuff we’ve been doing to the environment. Maybe nature is fighting back, or simply reacting as would a secluded room of vipers, if one carelessly ventured into their space.

Although I’m not that sure about most of what I’ve penned here. One thing I’m confident in is my stance on: We should not be hostile toward those on the frontlines, who are risking their lives to care for us.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.