Most people I talk to in our retirement community are scared to death of the Corona virus. They are afraid they’ll get it or another resident will get it and the virus will “spread like wildfire” throughout the whole community. Some are afraid to venture out of their residences even while staying on the property. There is a lot of fear. This fear is amplified by what they see when they watch the news. What has happened here and across the world is that the people most anxious about getting the disease have acquired veto power of when, how and under what terms we are permitted to gather.
Those who are fearful think that if they or someone else violates distancing rules and/or fails to wear a mask in the company of others, that someone will get infected by the virus or cause someone else to get the virus from them. The assumption is that one or the other has already been infected. And they fear dire consequences if they should venture outside of the facility. I’ve talked to quite a few fearful residents and I have compassion for their fear, not only from an emotional point of view but from what they are missing out on … the companionship of family and others, the softening courtesy of smiles, meeting new people, vacations, movies, walks in a park and so many other things. The anxiety makes normal life impossible.
Another perspective on the pandemic, my perspective, is that the Corona virus is “dangerous.” Doesn’t sound like much of a difference but the difference is huge. Fear is an emotional response and can’t be measured; you can count the number of people who are fearful but you can’t measure the degree of fear. Danger is a rational response that can be measured. That’s what probability is all about. I studied mathematics in college and have a lot of experience solving all types of problems. That doesn’t make me any smarter than others, but my first instinct is not to be fearful but to try to figure things out.
For me. if I see someone violating distancing rules and/or failing to wear a mask in the company of others, I think that person might get infected by the virus or might cause someone else to be infected. The consideration of might suggests the possibility that none of the parties in question are infected and introduces the question: “What is the probability that he/she will get infected or causes the other person to be infected?”
I apply the same logic to the danger of contracting the virus if I go off campus, for say 4 or 5 hours, or even overnight, to shop, play golf or whatever. It’s a question of probability. If the probability is high, I wouldn’t go. If it is low, I would. At 88, I’m not going to hunker down in my residence waiting for a vaccine shot or other form of permanent cure some months or years down the road. There are only so many opportunities left in my life to play golf, have family reunions, visit our time share, and so forth. The number is finite and small.
I’ve done the calculations. Assuming I go off campus for 24 hours and adhere to the same distancing, masking rules and other safety protocols to the degree that the people in the community do, the probability that I would contract the virus is very, very close to zero – somewhere around 0.000086.
Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the judgement of something else that is more important than fear. The brave may live in fear; but the fearful, the cautious, do not live at all.
We are social creatures. We need each other. We will survive with and because of each other. Being afraid makes us contract and shut each other out. I hope we can fill that space created by fear and contraction with meaningful connections and learn to be less afraid of each other.