We are social beings, so when we were asked to isolate there had to be a good reason. The coronavirus was a good one.
The problem is that there is no clarity in what we are presently being asked to do: Isolate, don’t isolate; wear masks, don’t wear masks, start living your life again, no don’t! Not only are these messages confusing, they have caused more animosity than accord. Instead of uniting, we’ve chosen to become angry with people whose beliefs differ from ours.
But isn’t that crazy? There is only one enemy: the coronavirus. Shouldn’t we stand together to conquer this pandemic? When there is a crisis, isn’t it to all our advantage to align and fight as one?
In New York State, where I live, Governor Cuomo has a press conference every day to tell us what is happening and what we need to do. He has remained clear, speaking to us New Yorkers as partners in this fight. There's been no debate; what he's conveyed is data- and fact-generated so it has been easy to see if what we've been doing is working—and it has been.
This isn’t about politics; it is about—and only about—saving our lives. All our lives. The only way we can do that is to follow the science—the numbers that tell us what works and what doesn’t.
Why is that so difficult?
Could it be that isolation is against our nature and wanting to be a member of a group is more important than being an individual thinker? Is it possible our desire to belong is more powerful than whether we agree with what the group believes?
When we see images of people gathering in bars or playing on beaches, what we are actually watching is herd mentality. People who have chosen to be part of the herd because it feels better than being alone.
"Herd mentality… usually describes large numbers of people acting the same way at the same time. It often has a connotation of irrationality, as people’s actions are driven by emotion rather than by thinking through a situation. When herd behavior sets in, an individual person’s judgment and opinion-forming process shuts down as he or she automatically follows the group’s movement and behavior.”*
How can we avoid just going along with the herd and, instead, make sure that our decisions are based on rational, lucid thinking? How can we stop giving in to what's popular or comfortable, thereby making emotional decisions?
The answer may be to make certain we stop and take the time to think through what we are choosing and why. Being part of a group is fine as long as doing so doesn’t mean we lose our rationality.
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I love the smell of lemon verbena. It floods me with memories of my childhood in Provence where it would fill the garden air. I remember how I'd brush up against it, wallowing in the explosion of a citrusy smell that was so intense I would stay and rub my hands over it. A few years ago, while wandering through...