Juxtapositions, or, The Way We Were
There is, in old-time metaphysical circles, an analog technology — if you’ll forgive the oxymoron — known once upon a time as Denial and Affirmation. It’s a simple but slippery concept, especially now that denial has become part of our standard recovery lexicon in the West.
Denial, as they say in AA, is not a river in Egypt. Nor is that what the founders of Christian Science, Unity, Religious Science, Science of Mind, or Divine Science meant. They meant to deny the appearance of something in favor of using one’s will to choose something better.
A teacher of mine, long versed in this technique, taught it thus: you feel a tickle in the back of your throat that at other times has signified the beginning of, take your pick, a cold, a sinus infection, strep, tonsillitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, et al. You deny the appearance of the soreness, all the while doing the things that will help your system fight the progression of that soreness, and you affirm, a.k.a. use your mind to remind you, that your throat is completely healthy.
An article in this morning’s Times set me on, there’s no other word for it, a rant at the lies, damn lies, and [faux] statistics that our government has been claiming are true for months about the coronavirus.
Then Anu Garg’s Word-A-Day arrived featuring words that are known in word circles as replicatives. Today’s was razzle-dazzle.
The juxtaposition of The Times’ article and Word-A-Day made something slot into place in my brain. This administration is using razzle-dazzle on top of denial of the glaring facts.
The definition of razzle-dazzle, mind you, a delicious lyric from Kander and Ebb’s brilliant Chicago — The Musical, is given by Mr. Garg as follows: Noisy excitement, showy display, or extravagant actions, especially when executed in an effort to distract or confuse. The italics are mine, and if I thought I could get away with it, I’d make them bold, all caps, and underscored as well.
“When executed in an effort to distract or confuse.”
The Times article is an Opinion piece by David Leonhardt entitled “A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus.” In it, he chronicles the cancerous, dare I say it, metastatic, exponential lies told by the Trump White House, and my friend, is it ever razzle-dazzle. He names it, and rightly so, as a public-relations crisis for the Narcissist-in-Chief, not a public-health crisis at all.
Denial, in the river in Egypt sense. Not the denial and affirmation that we who work to manage our brains so that all parts of us are on the same side.
I was struck by Mr. Leonhardt’s citation of a government playbook for public-health emergencies. Here is the paragraph in full:
“Almost two decades ago, during George W. Bush’s presidency, the federal government developed guidelines for communicating during a public-health crisis. Among the core principles are “be first,” “be right,” “be credible,” “show respect” and “promote action.”
Is there denial anywhere here? No. Is there even affirmation anywhere here? No. What there is, instead, is a reasonable, logical set of guidelines for individual, group, and governmental communication during a public-health crisis.
Between us, I’ve given up on the government telling us the truth. Their track record speaks for itself.
However, I am not giving up, ever, on individuals doing the right thing.
So let’s have a look at these guidelines, and see if we’re using them for ourselves and our loved ones, shall we?
1. Be first.
Were you the first of your group/family/work environment to put in place the protections that science and doctors are recommending?
It’s not too late. You can start to wash your hands this minute. You can stop shaking hands, hugging, and other physical contact, too. You can stay home.
This one means, in my book, be a good example, not a terrible warning.
2. Be right.
Are you checking the facts that you pass along?
Are you in the fear camp passing along and ratcheting up the fears of others?
It’s not too late. You can start fact-checking this minute. You can refrain from passing on half-truths and fears. You can be speech-continent.
This one means, in my book, like the Buddha so wisely recommends, use your voice for good.
3. Be credible.
Are you afraid? Are you telling the truth about that — to yourself, first, and then, gently to others? Are you stockpiling whatever you think you can’t live without?
It’s not too late. We’re all afraid, but that doesn’t have to be a driving force in your response to this pandemic. You can manage your fear.
This one means, in my book, look within. Figure out what you believe is true, and live by that. And if you can’t manage your fear, reach out and get help from a friend, a pastor, a counselor.
4. Show respect.
Do you know people who are at higher risk than you are?
Frontline healthcare workers? Elderly persons? Those with chronic diseases? Pregnant people?
It’s not too late. Make special allowances for those who are more vulnerable than you. If you can share what you have, or get them what they need, do it. Not because they need whatever it is, but because it’s the right thing to do.
This one means, in my book, we’re all a part of the human race, we’re all at risk, but some are more at risk than others. Honor their risk.
5. Promote action.
Are you following the suggestions of scientists and doctors in this crisis?
Are you living the exceptionalism that a lot of Westerners claim for themselves?
It’s not too late. Follow the rules. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Help others. Share. Play well with others.
This one means, in my book, that there are simple actions we all can take to make life easier at this difficult time for ourselves and for others. Figure them out and do them.
I’d add a sixth guideline, if it were up to me.
6. Pray for yourself and others and our world.
Here is where metaphysicians can use real old-time Denial and Affirmation, not to return us to the way we were, but to bring us into the present, and the way we are now.
Let us deny the appearance [and the fact] of a government that doesn’t care about us. That’s about them, not about us, unless we make it about us.
Let us affirm that we care about one another, that the Divine cares about all of us, and that, together, we can change the world.
In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.