As I settle into write this, the whole swine flu (excuse me, H1N1 virus) is swirling. The reservation where I spend the bulk of my work time declared a state of emergency. The three regional NPR stations I can click through on my drive to work are relentlessly covering the unfolding spread of this virus. This morning, six cases in Washington State. By the time I was driving home, thirteen. I’m not an overly panicky person. But it is hard not to feel a slight rise in my anxiety level in the face of all of this coverage.
One doctor today estimated (I don’t know how or through what calculations) that a nation-wide health emergency like this one might cost up to $65 billion. And much, he explained, of that comes from fear and panic.Fear and panic. I have often wondered what results we would see if a study could investigate the real role of fear and panic in the choices we make, the ways we live our lives. I wonder how often it really keeps us from dialoguing with people different from us, engaging with strangers, stretching out of comfort zones.
Perhaps one of the possibilities that might come out of this flu outbreak/epidemic/pandemic is a chance to look at how fear and panic operate in our lives. Perhaps we can take an opportunity to carefully look at when this powerful duo paralyzes us and imagine our lives lived beyond fear and panic.
Kate Dugan is a 29-year-old Catholic living on a boat on Harstine Island, WA. Last year, I earned my Master of Theological Studies and lately I’m constantly surprised by how being Catholic affects me in side-ways–its funny to me when I notice rituals in my daily life– Transubstantiation on my walk to work, Reconciliation in my new marriage, breaking bread over a barbecue grill.