Britta Gustafson: Willful ignorance
I used to believe wholeheartedly in the power of suggestion.
When I was 19, I went to see a psychic in New Orleans. She had an aura of mystique that even my skeptical side couldn’t deny. And she foretold events in my future that I grew to believe had been fated in my stars.
As the years passed, one after another of her predictions seemed to come true, even those with which I had vehemently disagreed at the time.
Sure, I told myself time and again, life has certain predictable paths that could be vaguely assumed, and thus “predicted.” And, though I had a recording of what felt like the divine soothsaying that I continued to refer back to in disbelief, my analytical self refused to accept that it had been more than a parlor trick. Or perhaps it was more a self fulfilling prophetic desire that had allowed my life’s pathways to continue to diverge with her augury.
It is seductive to believe that there is a predictable purpose for our existence, and wanting to believe in some form of predetermination can often have a placebo effect.
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Once we anticipate a specific outcome, our subsequent thoughts and behaviors probably help to bring that outcome to realization, right? And I suppose it’s far more likely that it is all driven by internal dialogue.
So the power of suggestion, for better or worse, probably works — in some cases.
I want to believe that this summer sunshine will keep us all healthy, that this pandemic is under control and knocking on all of Colorado’s bordering states but not here. And I want to tell myself that now is a very appropriate time to reopen and welcome visitors (and new COVID-19 cases) back into our small mountain community.
Still, I’m concerned that no amount of wishful thinking and not even the power of suggestion can will away a virus.
It feels so good to see the blue skies and hear neighborhood kids laughing together, to have the pressures of online schooling lifted, and to see this great reemergence from our seclusion. And just as much as anyone I miss the rec center pools, the crowded Fanny Hill concerts and festive nightlife.
But my clairvoyant side predicts that as much as we desire this pandemic to be over, at best all we can do is try to ignore the stowaways lurking in the Louis Vuitton luggage arriving here each new day.
For me, the answers are best sought in nature. And there are many analogies I have been forced to share with my frustrated children as to why we seem to be the outliers staying home while others throw parties and eat out. In particular I remind them of a rabbit burrowed down while danger lurks above.
I explain that when we must peek our heads out at some point to analyze the safety of the fields, I would prefer to see how others are faring first as self-preserving as that may seem.
I had imagined for most of May that we would re-emerge like other countries once the benefits outweighed the risks and once we had finally stopped denying and started doing. Once our safety infrastructure was well established and our mitigation measures were in place, we would slowly return to a pared down version of summer.
But oh those carrots looked so good and the weather is so nice, and the field is now full of other happy rabbits playing side by side. So what’s the harm? Everyone else is doing it. Yet, I’m not too keen on playing the game of self sacrifice for the perceived wealth and prosperity of others.
The virus is not stalled by the power of suggestion. It doesn’t care what the headlines say, what the propaganda suggests, what other people are doing. It’s nature and it doesn’t play by our economic rules.
So open we have. Now let us hope that if we keep telling ourselves that we are safe it will be so. But I feel a chilling breeze that whispers predictions, and reminds us not to become too complacent just yet. There is still a fox in the field and he is probably wearing white pants and Brioni. And the virus doesn’t care if you tell yourself that you are immune.
Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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