October 19, 2021

The sky is probably not falling

(I’ll probably rock some boats with this month’s missive!)

Back in the 1950s, New Jersey school children practiced air-raid drills in case of an atomic attack—Huddle beneath the window on the east side of the building!—because New York City was in that direction and that’s where the bomb would probably be dropped.

Today’s media scare tactics have nothing on what boomers went through.

Our parents had just gone through WWII. The good ol’ U.S. of A. got through it in pretty good shape; but we ended up with some pretty shady enemies—hence the paranoia about atomic bombs in our backyard.

My area of the country was pretty prone to hurricanes back then as well. They were not as predictable as they are today. We simply remained prepared. We got so good at it, we knew the calm after the first six to eight hours was the “eye,” and another six to eight hours of windy, rainy hell was still to come. Power lines went down routinely. Sometimes so many trees were down that we could not drive more than a half a mile in any direction. We had a generator. We’d fill the tub with water. We’d put a blanket over the freezer and open it only once a day. Today that type of scene gets national news coverage. In the 1950s, it was just how it was. When it was all over, we’d come out, survey the damage, clean it up, and get back to life. And a lot of community cooperation helped speed that process.

It might be a couple of days before the news amassed the big-picture damage assessment. I remember hurricanes ripping parts of islands away down at the Jersey shore.

In those days, news was all ex post facto. By the time we got it, it was already over.

“Wow,” we might say. “That was a big one!”

Sometimes people got hurt or lost their lives. Businesses were damaged. Lives were disrupted and reshaped. And we heard about it after the fact.

Today there are thousands of places to get prognostications of what’s going to happen. Some of these are based on science (such as meteorology) and some simply are not. “Influencers” with no more expertise than panhandlers are peddling “the sky is falling” narratives in order to be the king or queen of clicks on social media. Once respectable news outlets are vying for the same titles and pandering to their politically persuaded audiences. One audience’s falling sky is another’s heaven.

“Vaccines are the only way to save the planet.”

“Vaccines are a plot to take away our constitutionally guaranteed rights.”

We could go on ad nauseum. The divides being chiseled by the Chicken Littles in our media, both social and professional, in my opinion, are creating a population of frightened citizens that expect the sky to collapse upon them at any moment.

COVID-19, racism, police brutality, Trump, global warming, AOC, corruption—all have our nation (and indeed other nations) on pins and needles. Worry and fear (of future possibilities) consume a lot of our waking (and perhaps even sleeping) time.

One of my favorite authors, Eckhart Tolle, in his book The Power of Now says:

All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry—all forms of fear—are caused by too much future, and not enough presence.[Emphasis is mine.] Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.

Tolle urges us to unfocus on the past (it’s already done and gone so there’s nothing we can do about it) and the future (mostly out of our hands) and perceive our individual lives in the present (here, now), actively engaged.

In the 2015 movie “Bridge of Spies,” Tom Hanks’s character, a lawyer engaged in defending a known Russian spy played by Mark Rylance, asks his client why he’s not worried about losing the case and potentially being executed as a Russian spy. Rylance’s calm reply is really what Tolle is talking about. He simply said, “Would it do any good?”

Can all this communal (and individual) angst possibly do any good?

What would your opinion be if you had not focused on a future outcome by media outlets? What if it were the 1950s and you simply trusted your gut? You had faith in your resources and ingenuity? What if you did not have CNN, FOX, or your buddy the conspiracy theorist out in California to listen to all the time (and today everything seems to be a conspiracy).

If you’re satisfied with your immunity, then don’t get a shot. You’re confident in your resources and ingenuity.

If you trust your doctor, then get a shot. You’re confident in your resources and ingenuity.

Trust your gut, whichever path seems right to you today, right now. Bet the farm and wait until the storm clears. Wasting energy and relationships over what might happen is only folly.

And, like with the hurricanes, when it’s all over, some fully vaccinated folks will suffer and possibly die. Some unvaccinated folks will suffer and possibly die. Can worrying about it today do any good?

It’s your life, not that of the anchor on MSNBC. About all of the above-mentioned crises, how you feel is your decision. And you can choose not to worry.

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