Ever since I first watched the 1976 movie, Marathon Man, the question, “Is it safe?” has evoked a sense of fear and pain. In short, the plot is that a man named Babe Levy (Dustin Hoffman) unwittingly becomes embroiled in a scheme by a Nazi war criminal Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier) to retrieve stolen diamonds from a safety deposit box.
The movie is most remembered for the scene in which Szell, who is also a dentist, poses the question, “Is it safe?” to Babe. No matter what response is given, he asks the same question again. Eventually he proceeds to torture Babe with dental tools, again, no matter what answer he gives. You can nearly feel the pain while watching, brutal…
While obviously not as physically painful, we are all probably suffering in some way from the lack of a good answer to the same question as it relates to the virus. If you say to yourself, “yes, it’s safe” and venture out into the world, you see nervous people in masks avoiding any interaction with each other like we all have the plague. If you answer “no,” you continue your lonely self-isolation. Either way there is some emotional pain involved.
Of course the true answer to the general question, “Is it safe?” is painfully obvious and always the same. No, it’s not safe. Life is never perfectly safe. It never has been, it never will be. We are all at risk of sickness, injury, and death every single day of our lives. I guess we could always play it safe and rarely venture out, but safe for what purpose? That’s not living. Don’t take unnecessary risks, but no risk means no reward. Strike a healthy balance.
Obviously the difference in this present situation is that there was an immediate threat and seemingly imminent danger to the health of us all, worldwide. Therefore drastic measures were taken. Maybe that was the right thing to do based on what we knew at the time. Maybe not. We will never know for sure.
The initial projection of U.S. deaths was 2.2 million. Scary. The current count is around 65 thousand, slightly more than an average flu season, still growing but at a significantly reduced pace. Would it have been considerably more without intervention? Probably. In hindsight, were the measures taken the right ones. Probably not. Did they do more harm than good? Time will tell, but I’m fairly certain the answer is yes.
Allow me to elaborate. We now know that 80 percent of those who have died from the virus are over the age of 65. And nearly all of those under that age who have died had underlying health issues. It appears we could have limited ourselves to isolating and caring for those folks, and had roughly the same outcome.
Unfortunately I’m afraid the steps taken to avoid a health crisis will in fact create a much bigger one. They have created record unemployment of those who can least afford it. Combined with record debt and low savings, defaults will escalate. Even those who have been able to keep working have seen their retirement accounts lose significant value. People are anxious and depressed which can lead to all sorts of unhealthy behaviors. Overeating, lack of exercise, abuse of alcohol, drugs, and each other.
Annual deaths caused by suicide, drug overdoses, and alcohol abuse are now in excess of 200,000 annually. I wonder what it will be this year? Depressing. The point is, the negative consequences of the lockdown reach far beyond those contracting and sadly dying from the virus. The precautionary “cure” has arguably been worse than the disease itself.
So what are we to do? Well, the main premise of the sAint Me?! book was that if we are all striving to be the saints we are meant to be, we can work together to solve all the world’s problems. I believe this to be true as it relates to this virus.
Striving saints work to be their best and to share their best with others. We therefore work to keep ourselves and others healthy. We also seek to find and live truth. The truth as I understand it is that unless you have underlying health problems and/or are over age 65, even if you do contract the virus, your symptoms will likely be mild.
If you aren’t feeling well, stay at home until you’re better. That’s just common sense, common courtesy, and showing respect for your neighbor. Continue to take the normal precautions of hand washing, cleaning commonly used areas and equipment, and keeping your distance from those who do have high risk factors in order to protect them.
Hopefully with what we know now, more rational and compassionate approaches to containing the virus and limiting its toll will be implemented soon. Better data usually means better decisions. Let’s hope that is true and that the politics of an election year don’t interfere with doing what is right for all the people of this great country.
Regardless, there are things we striving saints can do immediately to help:
Politicians have a saying, “Don’t let a crisis go to waste.” Meaning, there are things they can get done in crisis that would not be possible during ordinary times. I’m not sure that is a good thing as it relates to governance. Look at how easily we let them take away our freedoms without question.
I prefer the Gandhi approach – “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The world needs more of you. More striving saints. Maybe this crisis has helped you realize that you have so much more to give, and relatively little time to make it happen. Don’t let your many talents go to waste. Be the saint you are meant to become.
Be Saintspirational! Scott