Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip #48:

“People who fish for food, and sport be damned, are called pot-fishermen.  The more expert ones are called crack pot-fishermen.  All other fishermen are called crackpot fishermen.  This is confusing.” 

                                                                                                                Ed Zern, 1947

If this is confusing allow me to add to it: Psycho-ceramics is the study of cracked pots. A silly joke, of course, as I’m sure the author for this week’s fishing quote was also attempting some humor. Sheer nuttiness on his part, and mine as well. It is said that it takes a bit of insanity to live in this often insane world. What I do know is we do best when we are able to joke a bit, and do even better when we don’t take ourselves too seriously no matter how serious a situation has become.

Presently we are in a very confusing and difficult time, clearly a time of uncertainty – Surreal perhaps. It seems we must not become overly consumed by this enormous global and national crisis, while at the same time also do all the urgent and necessary things to help reduce this dangerous pandemic. In other words, stay calm while also acting responsibly. For instance we can take on doing social distancing as an act of charity vs. doing so from a place of fearfulness.

This is a time for thinking clearly and calmly. Many people are becoming anxious and some are being thrown into panic. This will not help. Rather we all do need to use common sense, taking all the appropriate actions – social distancing, washing hands, etc. – even with the risk we might be later judged as having been over-reactive. We must do our best and also remain calm.

George Carlin, many years ago now, had a very funny bit where he chided us about how we have become a nation of fearful people who are even willing to surrender more and more of our freedoms for the feeling – the illusion, he would say – of safety. He said we have become a neurotic population obsessed over safety, drugs, crime, cleanliness, hygiene and germs.

With this latest coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we must sort through the fear driven reactions and choose the important ways to deal with this unprecedented situation. Between a lack of preparedness, forms of denial, and deception, along with over-reactivity from an anxiously driven populace, we find ourselves in the midst of a crisis of historic proportions.  What George Carlin would have said today, I do not know.

What I do know and I am confident about is we will persevere. We will get through this. It requires each of us to pitch in and see ourselves as in this together. Unfortunately some of the more vulnerable will not. It is all but certain we are also headed for a recession. To what extent we will have to wait and see. First, we can do our best to limit the virus from spreading. If we think only of ourselves and not of others out there who we might unintentionally infect because we did not take better precautions we will have failed. We all must do a good job to avoid contact with others because we will save lives.

The calm and steady handed approach will win the day. Allow me to offer the following reflection for your consideration. It is not the total scope of what we must do. It is perhaps more about the way we must these things. It is how we must be in the midst of what we do.

The following reflection comes from a flight school instructor, entitled: Attitude is everything.

“89% of all single prop small aircraft crashes are survivable. Most people can walk away from a “controlled crash” without a scratch. It all has to do with right attitude. In aviation, attitude is a double entendre. For airplane flights “right attitude” means flying parallel to earth.

Even with the loss of the engine the plane, if kept parallel to the ground, can glide to earth and have a controlled crash at roughly 38 miles per hour. Such a crash, even in a rough terrain, can be survivable.

However, if the pilot doesn’t maintain proper attitude and for various reasons attempts to raise the plane, say in the hope of reaching a runway, and lifts the plane, this will cause the plane more than likely to create a stall condition. When the plan stalls the plane will begin to drop into an accelerated tailspin. As the plane now starts to nose dive directly toward earth – perpendicular to the ground – it will increase its speed at 32 feet per second and within eight seconds reach a maximum speed of 120 miles per hour. This vertical direction toward the ground at this great speed is, of course, not likely survivable.

It is therefore essential that the pilot when faced with such a serious problem remains calm and collected – or in the language of Dr. Murray Bowen – becomes a “non-anxious presence.” The pilot must remain focused at all times in order to keep the craft at the proper attitude. He or she must refrain from any impulsive or wishful thinking that will only lead to a poor result. Instead, the pilot must prepare for having a controlled crash that needs to be ridden out to its conclusion. The plot’s very life, as well as the lives of any others on board, is at stake.

Each one of us is the pilot of our own lives. Each of us impacts other people’s lives. It is therefore paramount we remain calm while we go about doing all the very important actions to assist us get through this difficult time.

The second point: Besides remaining calm, we need to remember we are all in this together. This gets me back to our actions needing to be seen from the notion that they are acts of charity. When all is said and done, what matters most are our relationships – with our mates, children, neighbors, and friends. We are a community of communities and this makes us one global family.

There was an old Broadway musical (later made into a movie) called: “Stop the World; I Want to Get Off.” At various points throughout the play the lead character speaks directly to the audience about what he is searching for. He keeps looking to find happiness and fill the empty spot within him. It is only toward the very end of the play as an old man he now realize what he has spent his entire life looking for was always right there in front of him. What he valued most of all was his love for his wife and his family.

Perhaps we will discover, or rediscover, through this time of all the various shut downs, social distancing and a forced version of “Stop the World…” that we too have always had or have access to what is most important. And it has been right there in front of us all the time. May we be able to reflect, to sort out, and select all that is important and jettison that which is not.

Who knows what this slowing down will accomplish? Perhaps there may be an unintended positive outcome. Whether you are fishing or just hunkering down, may this slowing down time be a time of grace and charity.