Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
–T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton“
When you try to tell people how bad things got here in New York and New Jersey, they have trouble fully comprehending it, and yet more trouble empathizing. I sometimes wonder whether the only people who ever really got it were the victims of the most acute forms of depressive realism precipitated by it. If so, ER physician Lorna Breen and EMT John Mondello may well have died by over-comprehension of, or over-identification with, the trauma they witnessed during the COVID-19 surge in New York City. And you can be sure that others, though alive, are suffering similar miseries.
I don’t want to valorize suicide, and yet I can’t help wondering whether Breen and Mondello had the courage to stare down realities from which the rest of us prudently avert our eyes. I assume that we’re better off in our ignorance than they were in their knowledge, but I’m not really sure I know, and not really sure I want to.
Requiescat in pace.
On a related note, I heard of an effort being organized by Lori Sweetwood, a psychologist with Challenges Psychological Services in Monmouth County, New Jersey, to organize what she calls a “united, coordinated response” to provide pro bono psychological services to essential workers, including health care workers. More details on my “How to Help” page just below (scroll to the bottom). Thanks to my colleague Khadijah Hameed for the tip.