April 22, 2020

You've Got To Pitch Your Tent Somewhere


No, this isn't  a post about the best place to camp, or a great state park nearby. Author Richard Rohr said, "You must build your tent somewhere in this world, and there is no pedestal of purity on which to stand apart and above." He was writing about religion, but it struck me as an apt statement about life at the moment.

All of us must land somewhere in life, and we aren't likely to be able to avoid problems and trials. Circumstances often dictate what life looks like. Family responsibilities can easily shift our chosen path to something we never envisioned, and wherever we end up it will not be perfect. A world-wide disease can test even the strongest among us while having devastating consequences for the most vulnerable.

Our financial situation is often a source of at least a little worry, even if everything looks rosy. Of course, the massive drop in the stock market over the last few weeks has tested even the most self-assured among us. Watching years of gains disappear in a few days can easily send us to the antacid bottle. Heavens, just a few days ago oil was selling for less than zero. In theory a supplier would pay you to take away barrels of the stuff.

I remind myself that all that lose is only on paper at the moment. If I sell now I lock in the disaster. Much like the 2008-9 mess, if I just wait and do nothing, the investments will likely come back. Growth won't have happened, but neither will permanent loss on the scale I am seeing now. Granted, there could be years of uncertainty as the economic toll of the virus works its way through our system. Some businesses may not come back, others will flourish.

Health? Don't get me started. Between the two of us, Betty and I were averaging one doctor appointment a week until a few weeks ago. Sounds like my parent's calendar, something I never thought we would replicate. Social distancing, lots of hand washing, and common sense might see us and our loved ones through Covid-19. Then, again, they may not.

Even with all the uncertainty at the moment, I can't imagine anything worse than pitching my tent in such a way that I am away from and separate from the world all the time. In fact, I am going to be quite interested to see how I react when all the restrictions and closings come to an end.

Just as interesting will be what happens to our way of life. Will this have been just a large pothole in the road, one of those events that has happened throughout human history? Or, will we see a real change in patterns of consumption, preparation and social interaction? Will we have gained a new appreciation of the idea that we all need each other and pulling as one accomplishes more than pulling separately?

Or, will it be just the opposite? Self-reliance, being better prepared for disruptions in the future, or a lack of trust that those in charge have the ability to react quickly when needed, will keep us behind walls of separation and self-preservation.

It is much too early to predict with any level of confidence with path we will choose. But, speaking for myself, I hope this is a wakeup call that our tents offer better protection and satisfaction when pitched together and not each one separate and distanced from others. That sounds like a miserable way to live.


33 comments:

  1. You always offer us wise, insightful commentary and I really appreciate your candor. Though we only know you through the blog, we feel closer to you from what you share. I didn't realize you and Betty visited doctors so frequently and I hope your issues are minor. I'm 72 and Vicki is 61 and we're blessed with good health and financial security.
    When we all evaluate our investment losses, we were fortunate to have had such a bull market before this event which offset much of the recent losses even if it set us back a year or more. As you say, this "pothole" may give us a new perspective on our vulnerability and maybe some GOOD things will result. Thanks for giving so much to us.

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    1. Thanks for your concern, Bruce. Betty has several nagging situations. They are not life-threatening but cause her pain and problems. Unfortunately, she is one of those people who can't take virtually any of the normal medications that help with each. She has learned to live with pain pretty much for the last 30+ years. Mine are much milder and simple age-related problems: arthritis, prostate, etc.

      One of our daughters has lost her entire income. I think it is unlikely how she earned her living will come back until well into 2021. With so many out of work and everything still closed, her chances of finding something else to tide her over are poor. She also inherited several of the health problems that Betty has, so the next period of time is going to be tough.

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  2. It’s so hard to imagine what our future will be like.These times are so unprecedented.I worry over wide spread poverty and home foreclosures and what that may do to our neighborhood, or town, our society.WIll America become a welfare state?? I can go a little nutty if I ponder these thoughts too much! I am trying to stay in the moment, but also wonder how and when I will feel safe to go out and about int he future..my sense of safety is pretty shattered right about now! Our cushion of extra income is gone,since Ken had to close up his practice.But we are ok in general and good at living frugally. I would hope that all this causes some re evaluation of consumerism and a rebirth of a greater sense of community.. we shall see.

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    1. States like Georgia are buckling under pressure from the White House and fringe groups to reopen things that are likely to cause a new spike in infections and death. Who in their right mind would go to a movie theater, massage parlor, gym, or dine-in restaurant now?

      If people do go to these place, personally I think they should sign a waiver saying when they get sick they won't use the overburdened health care system to treat their stupidity.

      As someone who studied social science in college, I will be very interested to see how this experience changes our culture. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape what is important and how we treat each other. If we take that opportunity is still an open question.

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  3. This is the oddest of times, in my opinion. I would have never expected this. I'm grateful that Dave and I are sheltering in place together but, I feel sad for some of our neighbors who live alone. At least they, (and we), have loving pets to keep us smiling. But, I'm not sure how much longer I can take this 'separation' business. I've never seen anything like it. And, I don't ever want to see it again!
    Take good care of each other!! xob

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    1. Let's hope however long this lasts and however it plays out, it will be a once-off type of total shutdown. Predictions of a new wave of the virus for this fall and winter are not what I want to hear right now.

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    2. I know..it is not helpful to get us worrying about a second wave when we are still int he middle of the first and several states are ignoring things and opening back up!!!!! I may need a news fast soon but that’s impossible.I simply NEED to know what is happening in my world when I wake up in the morning!!

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  4. I don't think the 10-40 year olds will ever be the same. There will always be that hesitancy to hug Nana. They will not trust that they can open a business that someone else could close. I hope I am wrong--but that is not what I am reading. No need to be community at church or social halls...all on line.
    This pushes, even more, the me first generation. Look at how to take care of only my family? How can they trust anything else? One of my out of work nephews (I have ten) closed his place of business and is seeking government employ---since they are the only people still getting money (and the older people).
    We did this too long.
    People who pushed the "stay in place" issue need to stay in place for at least another month.
    Nothing. Don't go to the cabin. Don't get the hair done. Nothing.
    If you do- don't write about it.
    Continue the sheltering. Don't get sick and flood the system.
    The Youngers are are going to try to get their lives back and they deserve that chance.

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    1. The impact on the age group you mention is going to have devastating impact for years, if not decades. Too many small businesses will never reopen, never recover. Those who can figure out how to work at home, or remotely, will eventually be OK. But, those businesses and jobs that require close personal contact or working with groups of people.....probably not until a vaccine has been developed and had time to provide verified protection.

      To push government to open things now because you are bored or feel your freedoms are being impinged, you just need to spend a few days in the ER of any hospital to see what your selfishness might do.

      The economic pain is very, very real. But, forcing businesses to open now only invites a rebound that will be many times worse and prolong the mess we are in for months.

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    2. I see a loss of most mom and pop businesses,restaurants etc. We are going to see our choices become limited. Walmart,Costco,Target. The big corps will have won out. It’s a shame.. a real turning point in America. I get a newsletter weekly from Coronado Island in San Diego..at one time Orange Ave. was lined with shops owned by locals. Big developers started coming in and buying up BLOCKS and raising rents. Now, the few that are left are closed up due to Covidand Coronado is predicting most restaurants and shops will be chain stores and corporations from now on when and if things ever open up again! Breaks my heart!! In Gilbert too.. all over the USA, same story i imagine..

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    3. Sorry, I posted too soon.
      No one ever said that people HAVE to go out. They were forced to stay in. I don't know where some get the idea that that was ever the plan. Two weeks was the plan. We did 40 days. Some of us are looking at 30 more.

      Not sure why it is a surprise that some chain "essential services" made tons of money during this and can buy out the mom and pop places that could not sell anything. THAT is why people who have these places want to open up.

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    4. No one is forcing businesses to open. Many in GA are taking a wait and see attitude. Also, Trump does not agree with Governor Kemp. Trump stated at his White House briefing that he told Kemp as much.

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    5. Reportedly Trump encouraged the GA governor to reopen, heard all the pushback, and then reversed himself. Kind of left the governor out to dry.

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    6. Can you point me to the information that shows that Trump encouraged the GA governor to open in this way? I would really like to see it.

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    7. Here is a link to the story reported by the Associated Press: https://apnews.com/a031d395d414ffa655fdc65e6760d6a0. The AP has had a reputation for almost 100 years of reporting news fairly and completely, often lagging behind other news organizations who rush to be first.

      While you may not believe this report, to answer your specific question this was my source.

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  5. I like the idiom of "You've Got To Pitch Your Tent Somewhere." I'm having a hard time deciding where to pitch mine in this pandemic era. I'm used to a lot of alone-time so that doesn't bother me. It's the uncertainty of the future I'm struggling with.

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    1. Exactly. Betty and I usually spend a lot of time at home so the health directives don't really bother us. But, we are within 8-9 years or so of wanting to move into a retirement community. With those places being absolute petri dishes of the virus, we are having second thoughts of living was a whole bunch of those at most risk of any infectious disease.

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    2. Our son is disgusted with American politics and seeing up close how our country is dealing with caring for its citizens right now..no masks for our health care providers??No testing??? He says he wants to retire to Mexico when he gets his state retirement pension. It is starting to sound good to me too..

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    3. Would he give up his citizenship and actually move there? Mexico is a great country, for sure, but he may want to understand the government system before he moves. He might want to consider the crime rate and the actual rate of infection in Mexico. Of course, he could be part of the top 5% there, and the rich everywhere can do things that the rest of the country cannot.
      He could move to Canada if he had 3 million to invest or had a skill that they wanted. They want younger professional people.

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    4. I don't think it's retirement communities that are "petri dishes." It's nursing homes and similar facilities with a highly vulnerable population in a dense setting. Florida has lots of retirement communities, and I don't believe their infection rate is anything beyond the surrounding areas.

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  6. I think it's entirely possible that we will believe BOTH -- that we all need each other and need to pull together, and also that as much as possible we need to be self-reliant and able to take care of ourselves, and better prepared for disruptions in the future.

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    1. Good point. The two directions are not exclutionary. Being more involved with others while realizing we must have the resources to take care of ourselves and family can work in tandem.

      If nothing else, this experience is proving the limitations of government to snap its fingers and solve our problems. Also, it reveals the flaws in our supply chain for virtually everything. I know living with at least a 30 day supply of pantry items and supplies (think TP and disinfectant) will be my new normal.

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  7. Any post that starts with a Richard Rohr quote grabs me immediately. Such a wise man and writer.

    Life will definitely look different, but it's hard to predict how right now. Everything feels like it's in flux. The states seem to be going in different directions, and I think we will see at least one more surge from those who open too quickly. I'm guessing the materialism that is so rampant will be lessened, but maybe I'm wrong. It just seems doubtful that "influencers" and the messages of "buy, buy, buy" will mean as much going forward. But I could be optimistic. I do think we're giving Mother Earth a breather and that's nice to see.

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    1. Like you, I will be interested in seeing if people's first response to whatever normal looks like will be to splurge on all the stuff that has been left on store shelves: bigger TVs, new cars, furniture, vacations...all the stuff that has no effect on a well-centered life but many believe is our "right" to own.

      I hope, maybe irrationally, that many of us will find a slower, more earth and family-centered lifestyle is quite pleasant.

      It is fascinating to see how quickly earth starts to repair itself when many of the major pollution generators are offline. Pictures of clear skies, visible mountain ranges, and the like make it obvious what humans' daily impact has been.

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    2. I think a lot of families have lost a job or even two. I wonder who will be able to AFFORD to “restart” the economy by purchasing consumer goods??

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  8. I think the virus is a wake-up call that we have mistreated Mother Earth and all living creatures in many ways. I am going to do better.

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    1. Today is Earth Day, so your timing is perfect, and your point is right on.

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  9. I predict that within a year or less of this "pothole" that life will be back to about what it was like prior to this event. After 9/11, we had some changes that lasted (more security at airports and sporting events, stronger scrutiny at immigration check points) but in reality little changed in the daily lives for a large percentage of Americans post 9/11, and the next generation (teens today) have no memory of 9/11 and many don't even care it occurred. Same will likely hold true as we accelerate away from this pothole. We may spend extra money in our hospitals in preparing for larger numbers of people at times needing critical care, but I suspect that the economic forces of risk versus reward will eventually kick back in and hospitals and local governments will divert spending towards areas that can generate more revenue than having a stockpile of unused, expensive medical equipment on hand that must also be maintained. Our society, including the non-US ones, will quickly return to consumer mode and the old adage "The more the merrier". I would hope people would value relationships more and spend more time cultivating them but I suspect that investment of time will be but a blip on the cultural timeline. I also expect that once the newness of this virus wears off and more information is brought to light of the much larger number of asymptomatic cases, the mortality rates will continued to be lowered to a point that this virus when looking at it from the rearview mirror was much less deadly than originally thought. We run the risk if that scenario does indeed play out that when we have a biological issue that is much more deadly than this virus has been occurs that people will ignore the situation over what may be perceived when looking back in time as a "chicken little" approach that was taken with this virus (please do not read my comments as stating I do not believe this virus is serious; I am trying to show the possibility of what could occur should the data keep developing that supports a much smaller mortality rate than is currently advertised). Will definitely be interesting to watch...

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  10. Smart money says you are probably correct. "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" will never be more true. It will be a shame that we won't take heed of the lessons offered in terms of preparation, both personal and public.

    Coronavius may prove to be less deadly in terms of mortality rates; I certainly hope so. But, the devastation it is imposing on hundreds of millions of lives, both medically and economically, will not show up as a disease statistic, though the results are horrible nevertheless. That will be the real legacy: the costs that are not directly attributed to the virus that ruined so many lives.

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  11. Although no one could have predicted the exact nature of this virus, many scientists predicted that, at some point, we would be dealing with a global pandemic. Many of those same scientists say that we may be experiencing global pandemics more and more as our climate changes and populations and poverty rises. I'm not naturally a pessimistic person, but I wonder if - no matter how quickly or carefully we get back to "normal" - we may find ourselves in this situation again and again in the future.

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    1. The link to increased virus infections and climate change is one that I have read about though I'm not sure there is a firm scientific link yet. Eventually, if the link is proven, we do have a rocky road ahead.

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  12. Our daughter quickly stopped by last week with our 2 grandchildren. They were running around outside our house with us keeping appropriate social distance. Of course we couldn't interact much due to the Covid-19 restrictions (no hugs, kisses, or even a pat on the head) and as their short visit was ending our 3 year old granddaughter said: "I want the virus to end". As we are now in week 6 of social isolation she spoke for us too.

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    1. Absolutely. Can we maintain our discipline long enough to be sure this scourge is under control? It isn't easy.

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