Before I present an unconventional way for you to think of your value, I must acknowledge your pain. I imagine your circumstances may be far worse than my own.
Those like myself are fortunate. My immediate loved ones don’t suffer coronavirus (fingers crossed), I am in no financial distress, and we enjoy continuing nearness to each other in our small bubble.
For every other pampered hostage to the pandemic/recession, however, heartbreak abounds. According to the CDC, over 40% of U.S. adults surveyed in late June “reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition.” If all the world’s disquiet could be piled up in blocks of cement, it would reach higher than Mt. Everest.**
The world is overweight with pain.
We commonly define ourselves in terms of what we can “do.” Making a living often confers dignity. Status matters to those who make comparisons. Union with hands, cheeks, lips, and bodies have fueled desire for as long as man has been man.
How then does one hold oneself together when money is short, pride in social standing absent, health is imperiled, and touch means staying in touch rather than touching?
You are, in fact, already taking action of extraordinary worth.
First, you are surviving. For reasons you understand about yourself, you retain a portion of hope or a sense of responsibility for those closest.
Contrast your mortal state to that of a god for a moment. In the West, we think of any deity as an eternal being who is all-powerful and all-knowing.
This leaves humanity the possibility of displaying qualities absent in an invincible and omniscient entity who can’t die.
Think about danger. Bravery is possible because we are at risk of physical or emotional harm. The ever-present chance of adversity constructs the platform to display courage.
Man’s creaturely situation requires the choice to endure and persist. Misfortune happens, and its visit is not always brief. The Stoic philosophers believed this allowed each person to demonstrate “greatness of soul” by withstanding “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” as Hamlet described his own tribulation.
To the extent hope is an idea, you have created it. Moreover, my guess is you are amid (or can recall) such woes as Shakespeare put into Hamlet’s life. You know the experience of bearing what appears unbearable, including depression. If you did not, you wouldn’t now be reading this.
Your survival at this moment is a tribute to your character and worthy of applause. I offer you mine. If, with time, you can do more, then do so. Enlarged strength is the residue of a series of small actions.
For now, remember the last eight words from the sightless John Milton’s poem, “On His Blindness:”
They also serve who only stand and wait.
The top image is Meeting on the Beach: Mermaid by Edvard Munch, sourced from the Munch Museum. The second is Hope II by Gustav Klimt, sourced from Wikiart.org/
**Perhaps the most distressing finding in the CDC bulletin is this: “The percentage of respondents who reported having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey (10.7%) was significantly higher among respondents aged 18–24 years (25.5%), minority racial/ethnic groups (Hispanic respondents [18.6%], non-Hispanic black [black] respondents [15.1%]), self-reported unpaid care-givers for adults§ (30.7%), and essential workers (21.7%).”