an awesome podcast & comparative suffering

No doubt one of the best things we can fuel ourselves with at this crazy moment in time is a dose of realistic hope. Dr. Brené Brown is one person who consistently offers that for me. So much so, I took a few notes from one of her recent podcasts…

“We have collectively hit weary. This is especially true for the brave folks on the front lines of this pandemic and for the people who love and support them. And it’s also true for all of us… we are nearing kind of an exhaustion that we need to talk about.”

We have collectively hit weary. You can almost feel the sighs. Yes, let’s talk…

“The adrenaline surge of crisis is never as long as we need it to be, but it’s often long enough to get us through the immediate danger… you know… the flood, the hurricane, the landslide… the death of someone we love.”

Right. And the challenge with this time is the crisis-mode is lasting longer. We have lost our sense of normal. Or as you say, “sweet, wonderful, normal life.” So how then do we do this well?…

“We’re going to need to create a new normal and grieve the loss of normal at the same time. And I think that’s going to require focus, breath, and moving from fear and anxiety to proactively developing a strategy with solid information.”

So good… speak more to that solid information, please. We’ve been discussing here some of the current fueling of fear, wanting to be realistic and cautious, but not fear driven…

“Limit your news intake. Limit your screen time. Find one or two reliable sources that you trust that are around science and epidemiology… and even within a good science and epidemiological crew, there are calm spreaders and fear mongers. So find the right folks and lean in…”

[I’d like to believe the Intramuralist is always one of the calm spreaders… I’m leery of those Brené references later, who unfortunately, “pour gasoline on the anxiety fire”…]

You speak, no less, of our nation’s need to “settle the ball” a little bit — utilizing the soccer term in which a player intentionally, briefly pauses for the purpose of getting control of the ball… “Bring it down, get it between our feet, read the field, be more thoughtful about where we’re sending things next.” Hence, you encourage two strategies… first…

“Put together a family gap plan, and start naming where you are. When we can’t come up with 100, what’s the gap plan?”

Meaning, sometimes there’s only 20% left in my emotional and physical tank; I have little left to give in a day. And if there’s only two of us in our household, for example — and he’s at 35% — we’re barely treading water. That far under 100%, there’s a gap. So do a family check in. Name your number. What do each of us need to get our collective team back to 100%? Sleeping, moving the body, and eating well — each are vital. So to the second strategy, which totally fits…

“Strategy #2 is around comparative suffering. So fear and scarcity are driving a lot of our thinking and feeling right now. We all know what fear is; scarcity is a first cousin of fear — born of fear. It is the ‘I’m not enough,’ ‘we don’t have enough,’ ‘when is there going to be enough.’ You can see scarcity manifesting itself right now in the grocery store aisles… you can tell a culture is deeply in scarcity when the conversation at a cultural level revolves around ‘what should I be afraid of right now’ and ‘whose fault is it.’ And so, you can see a lot of scarcity leadership right now…

Unfortunately one of the things that’s immediately triggered when we go into fear and scarcity is comparison — comparison and ‘who’s got more,’ ‘who’s got it better,’ and ‘what are they doing.’ What’s crazy about comparison in fear and scarcity is that even our pain and hurt are not immune to being assessed and ranked.”

Wow. We all do it; it doesn’t sound helpful. We can’t deny how we feel, but no need to rank and diminish…

“The entire myth of comparative suffering is that empathy is finite. That empathy is like pizza. So when you practice empathy with someone like yourself, there’s less to go around.”

In other words we might have less to give the person who really needs empathy?…

“False. When we practice empathy with ourselves, we create more empathy. Love, y’all, is the last thing we need to ration in this world… empathy is the antidote to shame.”

So what do we need to be more empathetic?…

“What’s helpful is perspective. Complaining is ok. Letting ourselves feel these hard emotions is important and mandatory to be empathic people. [But] Piss and moan with a little perspective.”

So sounds like whether wrestling with the latest cancellation — my one son perhaps now in danger of never wearing that celebrated cap and gown — my relative who lost his job — or one of my BFF’s who’s weary walking out in the world being in the high risk category — having perspective is necessary and wise. 

I admit, friends; this is hard. We’re experiencing a collective weariness. But even with this new normal, I’m determined to persevere, no matter good days or bad — acknowledging both exist — and as my buddy, Brené, says, putting more empathy in the world. 

Respectfully…

AR

excellent during a crisis

After entering the professional world years ago (and earning my first “real” paycheck, if you know what I mean), I remember one of those early performance reviews. It was the first time someone on the other side of the desk looked me square in the eye and said, “You are excellent during a crisis.”

Now let me not flaunt some fictitious notion that my performance is always excellent. Let me also not suggest that I am continuously calm, cool, and collected 24/7, 365 days a year. I am not.

But as the COVID-19 crisis has caused an unprecedented profound, prolonged response, I have reflected back multiple times in regard to what it means to be “excellent during a crisis”… and how in these watershed societal moments, we have the somewhat veiled opportunity to bring out the best in one another.

To bring out the best in another means we aid and encourage another’s best qualities be made manifest.

No doubt in order to do such, we must omit any selfish ambition or vain conceit. We need to be humble — and thus see no one nor no other path or plight as better or worse than our own. We look down on no one. Period. We are in this together.

Perhaps it’s why on my recent, limited grocery jaunts, I’ve stopped to thank each re-stocker, often working feverishly in individual aisles. All I do is stop my six feet away and say, “Thank you for working.”

I must say, I’ve been amazed at those who’ve done the immediate double-take, clearly surprised, suggesting, “WHAT did you say??”

When I repeat my gratitude for them because they are working extra hard so that there’s food in my fridge — recognizing that they, too, need food in their fridge — the double-take morphs into an obvious, deliberate smile. They thank me. They are unquestionably, sincerely appreciative.

(I wonder why then, we do not share such gratitude on a daily basis… even in absence of this moment in time…)

So how can we bring out the best in another?

Right now.

Perhaps we start by thinking less of ourselves.

Let’s be clear that I suggest not we look down on self in any way. As iconic author C.S. Lewis was infamously known for saying, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

I’m guessing I’m not going out on too much of a limb here to suppose that each of us could grow in learning to think of ourselves less.

So we keep our eyes open. We recognize our own propensity for conceit, and stretch ourselves to see more than ourselves…

Who around you needs help?

Who nearby won’t reach out, but you know a simple act or gift (from six feet away) would be incredibly encouraging?

Who is lonely that would love a phone call?

Who is fearful that could use some support?

Who has lost their job that would appreciate a listening ear or word of hope?

And who, I ask, would be moved by our thanks?

Be persistent, friends. Be curious enough to pursue the people around you. The longer this continues and each of us learns to persevere — having good days and bad — let it be said that we were “excellent during a crisis.”

Respectfully…

AR

gratitude vs. entitlement

So I did a little bit of a word search this week…

What’s the opposite of gratitude?

A casual search suggests ingratitude, thoughtlessness, rudeness, disregard, refusal, and multiple more responses.

A more creative search suggests a lack of appreciation for something given or done to you or to someone else.

It is reasonable, therefore, to include that the opposite of gratitude is entitlement.

I admit. I have multiple feelings of subtle and not-so-subtle entitlement.

For example, yesterday afternoon, moments before I was to host an online virtual meeting, my internet slowed and the connection destabilized. I was more than a little irritated that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do — what I felt I needed to do. I admit… I feel my internet should always work quickly and efficiently (… regardless of whether or not the entire globe is online and shopping at Amazon at the moment).

To be entitled is to feel a right to…

… to feel deserving of.

I get it. We feel deserving of a lot of things.

But what if right now, at this unprecedented moment in history, those feelings of entitlement are actually obstacles?

What if that sense that we deserve something, gets in the way of walking through the current pandemic in a healthy way?

And what if any entitlement we feel, keeps us from being grateful — when maybe, just maybe, intentional expressions of gratitude might be our wisest and healthiest, intentional response?

No doubt in a “glass-is-half-full” approach, there are multiple areas in which each of us can currently grow…

In our practice of courage…

This is a challenging time. As the articulate Dr. Brené Brown shares, “Courage is a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn to courage by courage-ing.” Maybe we need to each practice courage-ing right now… I wonder what effect that would have on our anxiety and fears…

In the practice of self-discipline… 

With calls for social distancing and to “shelter in place,” this can be hard — especially for the extroverts, sanguine, and Enneagram 7’s and 3’s! But the change in routine, isolation, and staying put isn’t easy; we have to change things we otherwise might not. However, there is no doubt that self-discipline is a very wise thing… I wonder what would happen later if more of us would learn such now…

So what if we also then grew in our gratitude?

Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, what if we were grateful for what we do?

Instead of complaining about our circumstances, what if we grateful for something within them? What if we were intent about finding that which is good?

Back to Dr. Brown for a moment, as we quote her once more this day…

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness — it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”

So in these trying times — when the certain is uncertain — resisting the temptation to make certain, therefore, what we cannot — how might be wise to respond?

Dare I suggest… by intentionally choosing gratitude instead of entitlement.

It’s right in front of us…

… that is, if we’re paying attention.

Respectfully…

AR

cartwheels in the park

And there she was… the young gal, maybe 19, 20… doing cartwheel after cartwheel in the afternoon sunshine in the park. As I was out for my daily walk (which is a little bit longer now since my local gym is closed), it struck me…

What does it take to do cartwheels in the park?

Excuse me. Allow me to reframe the question…

At this crazy moment in our culture — unlike any most of us have ever faced — what does it take to get through the time in a cautious yet still carefree way? … in a way in which we are prudent in ample precaution, yet don’t fall prey to a paralyzing sense of worry and hysteria? … in this time of uncertainty — when there’s a temptation to make the uncertain certain — what does it take to still do the cartwheel in the park?

No doubt the desire to minimize the pandemic’s speed and spread will have crucial consequences. Our economy is currently crumbling; American production has been halted in multiple areas; and soon the job losses may be measured in millions. In addition to those who actually catch COVID-19, the longer this continues — prudent as the nationwide shutdown may be — the loss of income and employment will be devastating to many. Again, there is much uncertainty, of which it is impossible for us to make certain.

So what can we do?

(With all due respect to the sagacious Steven M. Covey) Allow me to semi-humbly share what we’ll refer to today as “The 7 Habits of Highly Hopeful People”…

1. Be educated but not obsessed.

Get the news. Watch the news. Maybe (even better) read the news. But beware of the bias (as it’s always there). Know when to turn the TV off.

2. Contemplate community.

Have you ever considered the authentic value of community? Groups of people, coming together, caring for one another… How can we help? What can we do for one another? What can we share?… Differences do not matter. Community will always mean more.

3. Keep the faith.

I remember years ago, when my youngest son had to be moved to critical care because he could not breathe on his own. As the doctor shared the depth of the then-current, potentially dire diagnosis, I listened, asked questions for clarity, and remained calm. When the physician exited the room, one nurse remained, dumbfounded and shaking her head… “I don’t get it. I don’t understand how you could stay so calm.”
I don’t remember being a person of many words that day. I simply responded, “There’s a reason I have the faith that I do. I’m not going to give up on that now.”

4. Say your prayers.

Over the years I’ve learned prayer is a bit of a two way street. That’s probably why the Intramuralist isn’t a fan of the “thoughts & prayers” memes in which the prayers part is crossed out. I get the frustration with inaction, but I’d never want to be in a position in which I denied the power of prayer. Granted, sometimes it’s easiest to deny what we don’t understand. I suspect that prompts me to pray a little more.

5. Omit the politics.

I know this is not popular with the passionate, but there is a time for partisan pursuits, and that is not now. It only fuels denigration and disrespect; it can also fuel both denial and fear, and it possibly even slows solution. A wiser approach would be coming together for a common purpose — rooting for each of our leaders to succeed.

6. Recognize the beauty of rest.

I remember hearing someone say years ago, “If Satan can’t make us bad, he’ll make us busy.” Sometimes we’re so busy, we miss the simple joys in life… the small touches, kind acts, quiet times, and time with family. I said it previously and I’ll say it again: the wisest people I know have learned the unforced rhythms of rest. They intentionally stop or slow down, recognizing the rejuvenating gift.

And 7. Utilize leisure well.

What are those things you love to do but typically don’t take the time to do? Maybe read a book. Play a game. Put together a puzzle or two. Write a letter. Take a bath. Binge watch “The Office.” Call that old high school friend. Be intentional. 

Me?

What else will I do?

Well, I have a confession to make.

Embarrassing as this is to at this life stage finally confess and publicly share, I have never — and I do mean never — been able to do a cartwheel. All growing up, I watched so many of my middle and high school friends — Amy, Andy, Kevin, Kristen, Jerry, Jill, Paula, Peggy, Steve and more — hop, leap, and seemingly jump circles all around me! But still… I could never do a cartwheel.

Maybe this week I’ll try.

Respectfully…

AR

a wise response (& 5 more questions)

As society slows, what can we learn? Is there something we can glean and grow from? … maybe even something that is — dare I say — potentially good?

Something amid this latest version of March madness, perhaps?

Allow me to first and foremost acknowledge that the scope of this virus is sobering; we need to take prudent and practical precautions. Let me also say that no wise one would wish it on anyone; such would negate any consideration as wise.

That said, what could result in what is potentially good?

Allow me a semi-humble stab… in question form, of course… only the following five…

Q#1: Can I better learn the rhythms of rest?

The wisest people I know have learned the unforced rhythms of rest. They intentionally pause, stop, or take a sabbath. They purposely slow down, believing it makes them better, sounder and more effective. Oprah, Roger Federer, Peter Scazzero… each speaks passionately about the need for intentional rest. With a slow down of society and encouraged self-quarantines, this may be a prudent new practice.

Q#2: Do I need to become a little more empathetic?

The impact of COVID-19 affects each of us differently. With the increased cancellations, each of us will be hurt somewhere. Me? I have two sons’ high school and college graduations that are now in jeopardy; suffice it to say, they — we — are/were very much looking forward to them. So as I recognize my own disappointment, I find it still wise to bear with each other’s burdens; consider another’s plight no better nor worse than our own. A tough but wise word would be to avoid any comparison. There is always someone who has it easier… and always someone who has it worse. 

Q#3: Is this an opportunity to grow more in my faith?

No doubt the most challenging times of my life have also been the places I’ve grown the most. And most of that growth has been in finding authentic hope — and learning to plant my trust in that. What is life without hope? The more I’ve learned that I am not in control, will never be in control, and am actually incapable of being in control, the more I’ve surrendered my want and will to the great big God of the universe. Life is not about me. No personal practice has been more helpful or hopeful. And no pursuit has provided more lasting peace. What, for each of us, no less, has sometimes stood in the way? That is a raw, honest, fantastic question.

Q#4: Where can we as a society prioritize most what we have in common?

Oh, my… we are such a divisive culture. We humans are so good at creating deep, polarizing, permanent divisive parameters! Do you recognize, in regard to COVID-19, that we all want the same thing? That we want no one more to succumb to this sickness? That’s Republicans, Democrats, white, black, brown, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, Christian, Jew, etc. etc. alike?? That is the biggest bottom line. Hence, to cheer about any individual identity or smaller unifier is lesser. Focus on the big. Focus on what we have in common. Focus on what means more.

And Q#5: Where can we become more creative?

This question comes to me from my articulate friend, Mary, who has done some fantastic work on this issue, professionally advising many across the globe. She is convinced that our current scenario will pave the way to more creativity and innovation. Will we be a part of those that embrace creativity? She suggests that first, we have to learn to embrace our constraints…

“… Do not become a victim to your constraints.

If you find yourself saying things like ‘now we can’t…’ or ‘poor us…’ you need to be careful, because you are on your way to becoming a victim to your constraints. 

When we let ourselves become victim to our constraints, we limit any chance of moving forward. The goal is not to be a victim, but rather to use those constraints to make us more creative in the way we solve our problems.”

She then encourages us to “ask inspiring questions”… How can we do this better? … differently? … more effectively? … efficiently? … or more?

Ask questions. 

Maybe like the five above.

Keep embracing this moment, friends. Maximize the learning, humbly aware that even in madness, there can be some sort of good.

Respectfully…

AR

one shining moment

Will we embrace the moment?

Will we do this well?

Friends, with the speed and spread of the virus, news, and our individual and collective readiness, one thought keeps coming to me, over and over again. We have an opportunity.

Yes, COVID-19 is significant, and it is undoubtedly prudent each of us prepare. While some may perceive various responses as an overreaction, it is important to remember that the current goal is to “flatten the curve.” Shared by shrewd health officials, the goal is to minimize the number of cases until more protective measures are in place. The coronavirus will still spread in the United States; the objective is to curtail the speed of the spread, giving hospitals, private and public health organizations more time to prepare. We don’t want to overwhelm the healthcare system; we instead want beds available, respirators ready, and more time for an effective vaccine to be developed.

An opportunity exists.

It is not rocket science to recognize we live in a fairly fractious state. We denigrate, discriminate and too often disrespect. We find so many reasons to look down upon another. Intelligent people do it. Otherwise astute people do it. Our politicians and pundits do it. We do it. 

In public. On social media. We even chuckle, cheer, hit “like,” and more.

I know… I know… “I have reasons for my disrespect!”

I hear you. Let me gently but boldly ask, “What part of ‘loving your neighbor’ are you omitting?”

It is no secret that the Intramuralist finds our current divisive society severely distasteful.

Hence, in a moment like this, I crave embracing the obvious opportunity…

We have a common goal.

We have something before us that transcends individual identity, passion, politics and pursuit.

We have something bigger.

Bigger is a bridge to opportunity.

Our goal is to stop this vicious virus. Our aim is to curtail the outbreak and eventually eradicate the illness. Our collective desire is that no more would succumb to the sickness.

Whether we are black, white, gay, straight, Christian, Jewish, liberal or conservative, etc., etc., we want the same thing.

The opportunity we have is therefore this: to recognize we want the same thing.

… As long as I see you as wanting something different than me, I don’t have to respect you. I don’t have to give you the time of day. You’re not worth it. You don’t deserve my time or attention. You should be silenced, in fact… You don’t deserve my respect…

When I am instead humbled enough to recognize the profound truth that you and I want the same thing — that we have the same goal — I become a better listener; my prejudice and judgment become additional aspects curtailed. For we have more in common than we do not; our opportunity is to recognize that — allowing no other conviction or opinion to obstruct what is true.

In the midst of this current scenario, of all that has thus far been cancelled, one of the most significant is “March Madness,” the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship. The 15-day, 14-city event nets near one billion dollars in ad revenue, and is watched by approximately 100 million people worldwide. This year, that won’t happen.

In typical years, after a new team’s crowning and the cutting down of the nets, CBS musically depicts the past weeks’ play with video set to “One Shining Moment,” a song sung since 1987 by Luther VanDross, Ne-Yo and more. As written on Wikipedia, “The first verse is about inspiration and hard work. The second verse deals with adversity.”

Inspiration. Hard work. Adversity. 

With our current efforts to curtail the coronavirus, let’s be inspired. Let’s maximize the bridge to opportunity. Let’s work together and focus on what we have in common. Let’s omit the politics. Let’s fill the gap with trust. And let’s do the hard work, fighting through the fears, peril, and precautions associated with the adversity.

That way, at the end of this, “one shining moment” will still be played.

Respectfully…

AR

a virus, prerogative and level of trust

Allow me to first say again what we said on Sunday in regard to the coronavirus and prudent preparation…

“Be guided by medical advice and not your feelings…

Limit your exposure to coronavirus news (due to biased news sources)…

Be well-informed from health advisories but make sure your sources are credible…

Follow the CDC guidelines for washing your hands…

Don’t let fear rule your daily living…”

Allow me also repeat: “It is no one’s prerogative to tell another that they have no valid reason to fear; we are often too quick — and not always empathetic and sometimes a little arrogant, truthfully  — to tell another they have no reason to be afraid.”

I conclude, therefore, that fear shouldn’t rule our lives, but we need to be empathetic to the fears of another. We each perceive things differently. Mercy will thus always triumph over judgment, especially in how we relate to one another.

But the reality is so much info is out there, friends. Keep reading — albeit not excessively much. Remember there exist motives from many to both inflame and downplay. I prefer falling prey to neither. 

Hence, with a desire to embrace a common sense, cautionary approach, I was struck by the insight of columnist David French. Allow me to thoughtfully, humbly share…

“At this point, after you sift through all the tweet threads about the coronavirus, read all the articles, and watch all the news reports—there is a single message that blasts through, loud and clear. This is no time for business as usual. There’s no need to panic. However, each one of us needs to alter our behavior, at least to some degree. Stop shaking hands. If you feel sick, be courteous to others and stay home, lest you alarm (or infect) everyone around you with your coughing and wheezing. Rethink travel plans, including potentially that dream vacation you’ve spent the year (or years) saving to afford. 

There’s more, much more, that Americans can do depending on their roles at home, at work, and in public service. But there’s a common factor: To minimize the risk of facing the kind of crisis that has killed thousands, crippled Chinese cities, damaged the Chinese economy, and is afflicting Italy, Americans will have to take the coronavirus seriously, and they’ll have to engage in at least some degree (even if small) of personal sacrifice. 

That requires trust—including trust in your neighbors, in members of the media who transmit information about the virus, and in public health officials. That trust will require a change in behavior even if no one you know is sick, even if you feel healthy, and even if the virus isn’t yet in your community. 

But here’s the catch. We’re living in a low-trust time…”

Oh my…

We’re living in a low-trust time.

How many times can I “amen” the above?

The whole challenge with the current leadership, society, government, partisanship, social media infighting, demonizing, tribalism, sides and divides and all the other schismatic crud is that when there’s a gap between you and me, so-to-speak (… or a gap between Republicans and Democrats, blacks and whites, Christians and non-Christians, etceteras and etceteras), we have a choice…

Will we fill that gap with suspicion or will we fill that gap with trust?

The choice is one or the other.

Hence, allow me to humbly but boldly submit…

If we can move ourselves as much as possible to fill that gap with trust —even when it’s hard, even when we don’t want to — such would be wisest and best.

Respectfully…

AR

coronavirus

“The risk is real, so let’s put on the record right now that this is a concern,” speaking of the coronavirus — aka COVID-19 — and again quoting David Ropeik, an expert on risk perception and communication. “The challenge is keeping your worry in perspective.”

Why does the coronavirus scare us?

It’s new. Says Ropeik, “When something is new, we don’t know all of what we need to know to protect ourselves, and that feels like powerlessness. And that’s what makes it scary.” “New” and knowledge are often incompatible; the complete clinical perspective is unknown to experts at this time.

It feels out of our control — referencing that powerlessness. There’s no shot, vaccine, nor seemingly full-proof preventive measure. Washing our hands continues to be the most encouraged deterrent, but that doesn’t feel targeted enough.

It’s spreading. First reported in late December in Wuhan, an eastern Chinese city with a population of approximately 11 million people, it has since spread to Europe and now to the US. American cases were initially reported on the West Coast, but as of March 6th, two deaths were reported in Florida. More than 330 cases in the U.S. have been confirmed, with 17 fatalities, and the numbers increasing.

Should it scare us? In other words, do the facts support the fear?

Let me first say it is no one’s prerogative to tell another that they have no valid reason to fear; we are often too quick — and not always empathetic and sometimes a little arrogant, truthfully  — to tell another they have no reason to be afraid. We don’t know their life experience; we don’t know their history; so that said, let’s be clear about the facts. 

According to the World Health Organization, “COVID-19 is still affecting mostly people in China with some outbreaks in other countries. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others.”

The elderly, special needs, and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk. Still the mortality rate from the virus is currently estimated to be approximately 3%. The flu mortality rate is considered to be approximately 0.1%. Hence, the chance of death is low, but compared to the flu, it is notably higher. Comparison makes a difference.

What perpetuates the fear?

Call it just me, but the Intramuralist really has little trust in most media. Don’t get me started on those rote “fake news” chants; the reality is the media has an agenda; politicians have an agenda. With the media so intertwined with politicians in 21st Century America, we can’t always discern exactly what the agenda is, as it’s hard to tell what is true and what is not. And often, pieces of a story are true, but specific verbiage is utilized in order to promote a desired emotion to accompany the reporting. 

Writes David A. Clark Ph.D. in this week’s Psychology Today about the virus, “Media coverage of health issues is biased. The news outlets devote more time to emerging health hazards, like the COVID-19 outbreak, than common health threats. Anxious or fearful individuals tend to pay more attention to threat-related information, which then drives up their anxiety and distress.”

So what can we do?

A couple of things, no doubt. Back to Dr. Clark, for a moment…

  • “Be guided by medical advice and not your feelings…
  • Limit your exposure to coronavirus news: Given your bias for threat, it’s best to restrict time spent searching the latest news on the coronavirus. You’ll want to be well-informed from health advisories but make sure your sources are credible…
  • Avoid compulsive washing:  Follow the CDC guidelines for washing your hands. If you find yourself washing until you feel better, this may be a sign you’ve slipped into OCD territory.
  • Normalize your life: Don’t let fear rule your daily living. As the coronavirus news becomes more urgent, be guided by reason, responsibility, and keep your fears in check.”

And lastly, say your prayers. I go back to Dr. Clark’s advice, “Don’t let fear rule your daily living.” I continue to recognize that in my prayers and in all those who have shared historical encounters with the great big God of the universe, in each encounter, what’s the first thing God says?

“Fear not.”

“Don’t be afraid.”

Time and time again.

Increasingly more, therefore, I see us neglecting the wisdom of the great big God of the universe. It’s not that concerns about coronavirus are invalid; indeed, we should be mindful and aware. Even error on the side of caution. But when fear becomes our greatest driver — recognizing the actual, paralyzing and even physical toll fear, stress and worry take on our lives — I question how wise is our response.

Respectfully…

AR

be afraid. be very afraid.

Soon after reading Ben Sasse’s Them: Why We Hate Each Other—and How to Heal last summer, I began thinking increasingly more about how the politicians, pundits, Sean Hannity’s and Rachel Maddow’s of the world are actually fueling the latest (not-so) great divide. Sasse made the point that the goal is rage — to make us mad.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Sasse said: “Today, the most watched cable programming in America, Hannity is number one and Rachel Maddow is usually number two. Both of them have the same basic business model, which is try to intensify the political addictions of the 1% of America that’s listening to you and you can always just demonize your opponent, and never give a fair shake to what the other argument is.

And I say that as one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate. I’m the second most conservative member of the Senate. I’m not mealy mouth indifferent on policy, but I don’t think policy differences mean that people I differ with, on a given policy, I have to regard as evil and, therefore, not as a part of a shared America…”

I’ve since concluded that there’s a deeper aim employed, as we recognize a common root of anger. Allow me to quote Dr. Leon F. Seltzer, a dual doctorate holder, popular psychologist and author, in a post from “Psychology Today”:

“… anger is almost never a primary emotion in that even when anger seems like an instantaneous, knee-jerk reaction to provocation, there’s always some other feeling that gave rise to it. And this particular feeling is precisely what the anger has contrived to camouflage or control.

The simplest example of my admittedly unorthodox relegation of anger to secondary, ‘reactive’ status might relate to the universally frustrating situation of being cut off while driving. Virtually everyone I’ve ever asked has responded emphatically that their immediate reaction to such an event is anger. But when I further inquire as to what being ‘cut off’ typically involves—namely, the very real threat of an accident—they realize that in the fraction of a second before acting successfully to avert a collision, their emotion must certainly have been one of apprehension or fear. Cycling from the heightened arousal level of fear to equally intense anger happens with such breathtaking speed that almost no one can recollect that flash of trepidation preceding the anger—or even rage…”

Fear seems employed in order to fast fuel the divide.

Look again at the politicians and pundits — whether running or currently in office. Look at what they want us afraid of… certain people… now even a potential pandemic. Not that there aren’t reasons to be watchful and concerned, but fear is a different level, so-to-speak; there’s an unhealthy motive in the fear. And on a macro level, no less, those persons seem to intentionally attempt to make each of us — from varied angles — fear loss. The goal is to make us afraid of something we are about to lose…

i.e. Guns. Children. Other people’s children. Healthcare. Voting rights. Reproductive rights. Equality.  Employment. Citizenship. A safe country. Money. Retirement accounts. The freedom to worship, speak, or have a free press. Even more money. And even more rights.

The challenge is that we “regress to tribalism when afraid.” Such is the point of international consultant, expert, and also Psychology Today author, David Ropeik. He writes: 

“…As a result of the inherent nature of risk perception, our desire for the safety of the tribe when we are threatened is cleaving us into camps, polarized and mistrustful and defensive tribes, ready to follow divisive ‘We’re Under Attack’ voices…”

The politicians, pundits, Sean Hannity’s and Rachel Maddow’s of the world (and many of us on social media) are doing exactly that.

Continues Ropeik: “The problem is, an Us AGAINST Them world doesn’t allow for middle ground, for the flexibility and compromise and give as well as take that we need in order to help solve the big problems we face. This sort of risk perception is actually a pretty dumb way to actually try and protect ourselves… We need to recognize the danger…the danger from the instinctive tribal way we’re behaving…and recognize that we all belong to a larger tribe, and the big threats threatens us all…and perhaps that tribal identification can bring us a little closer together and allow solutions that will make us a little safer. Us AGAINST Them may feel safe in the short term, but in the long run it’s a far more dangerous path.”

Being lured into fear is a dangerous path. It shatters the idea of a shared America.

May we thus realize that our wisest resistance may be to the tribal mentality.

Respectfully…

AR

why read?

As we have discussed already in 2020, one of the Intramuralist’s resolute resolutions was simply to read more. Why?

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” — Walt Disney

Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” — Malorie Blackman

We read to know we are not alone.” — C.S. Lewis

And while no aficionado nor expert nor author extraordinaire, my strong sense is we need to be reading different things by different people and not simply books and essays that serve primarily only to reinforce what we already know we believe. It’s why I actively, consistently read the Bible, the world’s all-time best, bestseller; it teaches and stretches me more than any other writing. It challenges me, humbles me, and clearly confronts me with the reality that there is so much I do not know… and so much more to learn. Wisdom comes often from sources other than self.

What are you reading that’s conservative? Progressive?

What are you reading from history or about a contemporary conflict?

What are you reading that’s written by someone who doesn’t look like you?

What are you reading from an American author or from someone not born in this country?

What are you reading from a male? Female? Old? New?

Fiction? Nonfiction? Biography?

Varied background? Style? Or ancestry?

From the book completed just yesterday, said one of the fictional characters, after some life-changing growth, “I tell them there is nothing more selfish than trying to change someone’s mind because they don’t think like you. Just because something is different does not mean it should not be respected.”

So in 2020, I’m thrilled to be learning from the different, such as in…

Permission to Feel, written by Marc Brackett, whom we have previously quoted at length here, encouraging each of us to become an emotion “scientist” as opposed to an emotion “judger”…

Small Great Things, written by Jodi Picoult… In this 2016 New York Times bestseller and noted work of fiction, the lives and perspectives of Ruth, Kennedy and Turk are interwoven. Ruth is the protagonist, an African-American labor and delivery nurse who was ordered not to touch the baby of a white supremacist couple; the newborn later dies in her care. Kennedy is Ruth’s white public defender, and Turk is the father of the child. In a gripping — and for me, page-turning — tale, we watch each character wrestle with what they’ve been taught. To quote one of the central characters, “It just goes to show you: every baby is born beautiful. It’s what we project on them that makes them ugly.” NY Times critic Roxane Gay called the novel “messy,” but added “so is our racial climate.” No doubt this is a deeply insightful read…

Making Peace with Change, written by trusted friend, Gina Brenna Butz… In this brand new, nonfiction, 2020 release, Gina wrestles with the depth of transition in each of our lives, recognizing the mess, but encouraging the reader to navigate through in a healthy, God-honoring way. I feel like I’m sitting down with Gina having a long, extended cup of coffee; there’s so much here we can also quote; for example, “The pain of unmet desire often causes us to lash out. Our kids disobey, and we insist that they change. We yell and lay down the law and demand that they do what we ask. Why? Because at a deep heart level, we don’t feel respected by them, and we we hate that… On the surface, we blame the moving company for running late, or the map app that just sent us down the wrong road in a new city. But underneath, the anger is a symptom of unmet desire. And when something feels threatened, it is easier to make ourselves big with anger than to feel the fear, confusion, and frustration”…

So far I’ve read insightful works from each of the above in addition to Rosaria Butterfield, Latasha Morrison, and Chip and Dan Heath. Ben Carson and Malcolm Gladwell are next on my list. William Krueger, Robert Dugoni, and Priya Parker will hopefully come soon thereafter. 

Allow me only to encourage the growth and humility that comes via reading, recognizing wisdom comes often from sources other than self.

Respectfully… always…

AR