|Oedipus Cursing his Son Polynices, by Henry Fuseli (National Gallery of Art)|
But calm also can be infectious. Kindness too, and here is an example to back that up, something from the email reaction to yesterday's column. In fact, the very first response, Monday evening, from Matt S.—he used his full name, but I'll shield it:
"I read your article about maintaining a sense of humor and want to say that you are really a pathetically snarky person. No, you aren’t an optimist. You’re just an asshole."Maybe because he telegraphed his intent—the subject heading was "what a dick article"—I was prepared. My reply was in full cross-legged-on-a-lotus-
"But polite. Thanks for writing Matt."That usually would be the end of it, or if someone did reply, they'd just take the trowel and ladle on more. But Matt, perhaps feeding off my zen, caught himself:
"I’m sorry. I hate anything political in these times, the memes, etc.. i lean right and found myself backing up JB Pritzker today to someone of my ilk, and had to say “Jesus, dude, put politics to the side for 5 minutes”. this whole thing sucks."That seemed sincere, and I tried to respond in kind:
"No argument here. In my defense, I had a big package about a young guy fighting Stage 4 colon cancer ready to go—I feel less like writing about this virus stuff than you feel like reading it. But all the virus news pushed it out of the paper about 2 p.m.—a long, complicated story, now running Sunday—and I had to whip something together in half an hour, so I grabbed some tweets and retro-fitted them. We're all on edge lately. And thanks for the apology. Very rare in this day and age. Sorry the column struck a wrong chord. Stay safe."His reply was:
"You too, man. Young guy with stage 4 colon cancer? geez. we are all lucky to just be freaked with germ paranoia and hand washing ocd.From calling me an asshole to pulling out his wallet to help with medical bills for someone I was writing writing about. All in the span of 10 minutes. People do cover the spectrum, don't they? I thanked him and said the guy works for the federal government, so his bills are covered.
I look forward to reading that article for some perspective. Please add any info if he needs help with medical bills."
This crisis, it will bring out the good and bad in people before it is over. Wouldn't it be something if it was remembered more for the good than the bad? It's still possible. Stay safe out there. Keep an eye on one another.