Are we done yet? Like a child on a long car trip asking, “Are we there yet?” we want this COVID stuff to be done. I see more people without masks these days. More caution is being thrown to the wind. It feels as if there is no established reality. If you do not like what you are hearing, create a different narrative and posit it as “truth” and live accordingly. We live in very strange times.
To be honest I often find myself at a loss for words in some situations. Dialogue has become more difficult. Some years ago in working with a patient on a locked psychiatric ward, I was asked by her, “Will God forgive me if I kill myself?” We spoke for a while about the value of life, a loving God, and so forth. I left the conversation feeling good about how it progressed. About 2 hours later, I received a call from the Counselor on the unit, “Did you tell “A” that it was okay to kill herself?” I recounted the conversation to the Counselor who audibly sighed on the phone. We cleared a time to meet together with “A”.
As I recounted our conversation “A” continually twisted my words to mean it would be okay to kill herself. The Counselor finally looked at her and basically said, if she was going to kill herself leave other people out of it and just take responsibility for herself. I learned an awful lot that day. We can twist reality to be whatever we want it to be, we just need to be responsible for the outcomes. There are many who believe that freedom means not having to be accountable for one’s actions within the wider community.
“A” wanted a version of reality and belief that would leave her feeling good about making a decision of self-harm. People who refuse to wear masks want an understanding that they are taking their own risks (exercising “freedom”), but then see themselves as having no responsibility for the people they might infect. There has always been a delicate balance between individual “freedom” and communal responsibility. We live in an uncomfortable tension between the two, particularly now, particularly with seemingly no agreed upon version of what is true and what is real.
The answer to the question “Are we done yet?” rests entirely on how we weigh out that delicate balance between the individual and the community and how our understanding causes us to act. This I believe to be true no matter one’s particular version of reality.