As the World Reopens, Don’t Forget to Empty Your Cup
We need open minds more than ever, right when we’re least likely to have them
In the movie Watchmen, the character Rorschach tells the following story:
Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor…I am Pagliacci.”
The uncertainty the poor clown feels closing in around himself is a major theme of the movie — an exploration of existential dread and how to live with it. Ozymandias, the main antagonist and smartest man on earth, banks on the world seeking the doctor’s prescribed treatment for his plan to succeed:
“In an era of stress and anxiety, when the present seems unstable and the future unlikely, the natural response is to retreat and withdraw from reality, taking recourse either in fantasies of the future or in modified visions of a half-imagined past.”
Ozymandias uses and reinforces people’s desire to escape by selling them a vast array of consumer products, for example a perfume called Nostalgia, which in turn fund his master plan — and boy, would Ozymandias have loved coronavirus. He’d have thought it to be ripe with opportunity.
What did you do when the crisis first hit? How did you react? Regardless if you buried yourself in work, parenting, hobbies, or distractions, chances are, you buried yourself in something, and thus, your head ended up in the sand. Depending on the crisis, this may — surprisingly — be a healthy thing to do. Six months into the pandemic, however, Tara Haelle explained why you might have suddenly felt tired — your “surge capacity” was depleted:
Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.