Reflections on a conversation with someone who doesn’t believe in covid

Humans are not good at finding the truth: Look at science.

There are too many examples of scientists and physicians in history who couldn’t see the truth because they were too entrenched in their own beliefs and ways of thinking.

For example, we all know smoking is bad for us these days. But only seventy years ago, people, even medical professionals, doubted the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

And there’s an even more recent example of people being wrong about the body.

In 1999, Russell Foster made a discovery about the eye that everyone in his scientific community would not believe. He discovered a third photoreceptor cell type that has nothing to do with vision. It only senses brightness to recognize day and night. When he announced his finding, the ophthalmological world found him ludicrous. At a meeting where Foster presented his findings, one member of the audience left, shouting, “Bullshit!”

He did a remarkable experiment to prove his point. He asked a woman who was utterly blind to tell him when the room was light or dark. And as the light went on and off, she told him with complete accuracy when it was light or dark.

His discovery is now taken as gospel, but it sure took him getting a shellacking to get here.

These people, who couldn’t see smoking as a killer or a new receptor in our eyes, weren’t stupid. These were and are scientists, researchers, scholars, doctors. They were intelligent. But they refused to accept the truth.

They were just stuck in a worldview. They were the fish in the proverbial water.

Look, humans have a hard time seeing new facts, new data, even with evidence and research, even if it’s outright true.

Just last week, I talked to someone who doubts covid.

He told me that no one he knows had had it. To him, it’s just a news headline without any evidence in his life or those around him. And all he could see was politicians making decisions that affected his life, his work, his kids. His daughter just got married and had only thirty guests there. All he’s seen is disruption from a force that he doesn’t see.

I tried to tell him that I know people who’ve had the virus, even knew some who’ve died. He didn’t disagree with me, but he didn’t seem convinced either.

These days there’s a lot of disagreeing over facts. And I’ve heard all kinds of words hurled at differing parties. Each side is apparently “stupid” or “foolish” or “misinformed.”

But they’re not. Just as the cigarette toking doctors of the 1950s and profanity yelling ophthalmologists weren’t dumb, neither is the person who disbelieves in covid or the people from the other political party.

The truth is often the hardest to see in the present. When it becomes the past, it’s more easily recognized, accepted—believed. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Today, no one denies that smoking increases our chances of getting lung cancer. It took years to get there.

And I think the virus and the election and the president and all of the things that we argue about these days will also play out, and the “unknown” truth of today will be undeniable tomorrow.

It’s true, humans may be terrible at finding the truth, but the truth does find us.

It just takes time.

New York City Is Not Dead

New York City will thrive again.

Yes, the city seems gutted. But it’s not gone. It feels lifeless but it’s not dead. Just because a creature is still doesn’t mean it has been snuffed out. It’s resting.

More than that, it’s transforming. New York is evolving.

It’s done it in the past; it will do it again. Too many times have skeptics and pessimists said New York was down and died. The 1970s were a dark time, so was 9/11; then there was the financial meltdown down with 2008. But each time it learned and changed and grew. Sure it was knocked down those times before, but each time it came back stronger. Because, when it fell, it learned.

But this time, some may say, is different.

The virus makes the city’s strength, human density, its kryptonite. It’s flipping its power into poison. And the city is on life support. And that’s true.

People are leaving the city. My family and I moved out of our West Village apartment right as the virus caused the city to lockdown in March. We didn’t leave because of the pandemic. We thought it would be better for us to return to our midwestern roots with our growing family. But now, months later, we are hearing from various neighbors and friends about how they are leaving NYC permanently, too. The city is bleeding. And it seems abysmal and terminal.

But doomsayers always seem right when the night is darkest. And in the darkness, they forget the dawn. Sure, there are no assurances that a city will survive a devastating blow like a pandemic. But many think crises are worse when times are bad, believing the worst case before it happens. They have a harder time seeing the horizon or the silver lining. Fear does that. It makes the dark darker and the bad worse. And, in those times, it’s easy to sound right, and smart, by being negative. And, optimism will seem foolish and naive then.

But just as New York overcame overwhelming obstacles in its past, it will do the same now. Fighting is its trademark; it’s codified in its DNA.

I believe in the resilience, ingenuity, tenacity, and spirit of New York City and its people. They fight and possess grit. They might get knocked down when things are tough, but they don’t stay there. They will claw back to their feet. They will create their way out of this, find new avenues to subsist and grow. Yes, many small businesses and companies will not make it out of this—but some will. And new ones will start. Entrepreneurs will discover innovations and business methods and protocols that won’t only help them survive but let them thrive. They will emerge stronger and more resilient and more successful than they ever have been.

That’s the thing about pain and difficulty, it’s dark for a season. But it’s also the spark that ignites creativity, innovation, transformation. And that’s the most critical part. We mustn’t focus on the negative and forget to see that often it’s the darkness that forces us to discover fire.

And I believe New York’s flame is not out. They are just finding a way to build a bigger torch. And when they do, the city’s light will blaze brighter and larger than ever.

Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Headlines about vaccines are splattered all over the media these days. We, all of us, are on our toes with expectation, waiting for one to work. But we may be reaching. And even if one works, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

When I was younger, before this pandemic, I never thought about vaccines. When my doctor told me they needed to shoot something into my body, I quietly submitted to the demigods of science and medicine and let them medicate me, even though I hate needles (and still do).

Be Cautious With Medicine

But now that I have kids, I’ve developed a newfound caution towards medicine. I don’t believe everything I hear from institutions, especially when they haven’t been thoroughly tested. Before I make a decision when it comes to medication or healthcare, I thoroughly research it.

I became more cautious after researching home births. I discovered that a woman’s body is, more often than not, perfectly capable of, and designed for, giving birth without medical intervention. Yet, healthcare systems would have you believe that babies are only best born in a hospital, without telling you that they are revenue-centers for healthcare systems.

I’m not saying medicine is nefarious or that the people who work in the field mean to hurt or take advantage of their patients. I don’t think they do. I think they mean the best.

Nor am I saying that vaccines are bad. They’re not. Clearly, they save lives and have been incredible innovations for humanity. I’m supremely grateful that I didn’t have to worry about contracting polio when I was a kid on those sweltering summer days when I dove and splashed in the neighborhood pool. But just because vaccines are good doesn’t mean there isn’t risk here. There is, especially for new ones.

History of Vaccine Failures

You see, there have been problems in the past. Not just little hiccups. I’m talking about people getting the disease from a vaccine that it was supposed to keep them from getting, like polio. True story: in 1955, The Cutter Incident happened.

Cutter Laboratories developed a vaccine for polio and 250 people, instead of getting inoculated from the disease, got infected. So hundreds were crippled for life when they thought they were getting a preventative measure. Some even died.

Yes, that “incident” led to some reform. Additional protocols like better regulatory measures and a way to get compensated for being harmed by a vaccine were created. But still. People died—kids died.

But even with those improvements from the Cutter Incident, problems with other vaccines still occurred, even as recent as 2013. Here are some of them.

  1. Simian Virus 40 (SV40) – 1955–1963, 10-30% vaccinated with this polio vaccination got this virus, which looks high.
  2. Swine Flu Vaccine and Guillain-Barré Syndrome – 1976, where a “small” fraction one out of one hundred thousand got this serious condition .
  3. The latest one occurred in 2013, where the manufacturer was concerned that there might have been “glass particles” in the vials for their HPV vaccine. I’m not exactly sure what all of that means, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want glass particles shot into my bloodstream.

I’m not saying that there’s a conspiracy with all of the vaccines that had issues listed above. That’s not the point. I’m sure they were meant to help people, solve the problem of some sickness whatever it was. But not all shots are silver bullets.

What Does This Mean for the Covid-19 Vaccine?

These days, many seem to think that once someone pops out a vaccine for Covid-19, we will be dandy, all good—saved. And the multitudes will rush to get injected with it.

But I wouldn’t.

And now, we have a vaccine-race.

This week I read that Russia has developed a vaccine and that President Putin is even ready to inject his daughter with it. But does anyone really believe that?

And all of this is going so fast, maybe too fast. It’s been predicted that the vaccine will take at least a year to develop. But if history proves anything, it shows us that we have no idea how long it takes to make a vaccine. This website says historically it has taken 10-15 years. And HIV/AIDS still doesn’t have a vaccine even though researchers have been working on one since the early 1980’s. In 1984 it was declared that a vaccine would be available in two years. That declaration didn’t quite pan out.

But let’s say scientists beat the odds for this new crisis, and the Russians or some other country or company makes a working vaccine. My question is, Can it be trusted? Humans err. Especially when they rush things. I mean, when I rush a blog post like this and publish it without being thorough, it will have typos and errors. Even when I am super careful, there are often still issues. And they might hurt your wordsmithing sensibilities, but not your body, your well-being. But the Cutter Incident proves that errors with vaccines can cause significant damage.

This Worries Me

So that doesn’t just make me cautious. I’m concerned. What concerns me is our willing acceptance of a new vaccine. This worries me for you, your family, your kids, your friends, and for mine and me. This whole vaccine business is not risk-free, and it certainly isn’t guaranteed. Yes, it’s a worthwhile venture. But it’s venturing into unknown territory. And just because it’s a worthy cause doesn’t mean I’m willing to sacrifice my loved ones for it by jumping into line to get pricked right after they open the gates to everyone.

Now there are risks on either side. If you don’t get vaccinated, there are risks for getting the disease. But if you do, there will be a risk of getting the disease, too. Neither is certain. And there isn’t enough data to know for sure which way is best. I’ll admit I’m not a statistician. So if you’re playing the odds, don’t go by my words. I’m merely pointing out that there’s risk.

Closing Suggestions

I suggest that we need to temper our expectations for this vaccine and not allow our emotions to be swayed back and forth by the headlines. And if, by some miracle, a vaccine gets developed and passes clinical trials, be cautious. Just because it passes trials doesn’t make it completely safe.

But I do know this. I can’t control the vaccine nor the pandemic, but I can control how careful I am. I can wear a mask, socially distance, quarantine as much as possible. I can hope, and pray.

You can too.

Stay well, friends.

Lots of love,
John

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The greatest reward for pandemic risk

Assessing risk is hard anytime, but, in a pandemic, it’s even harder. But it’s paramount.

People should think “The coronavirus kills and is unpredictable, so I should wear a mask, especially indoors, and socially distance so I don’t transmit or get infected and become a transmitter.” But many don’t.

Especially in the US.

People aren’t socially distancing. People aren’t wearing masks.

And I think it has a lot to do with how people assess risk. Yes, it’s not the only reason the virus is rampant in our country. Sure, people are selfish. And true, people think the pandemic is a hoax. But there’s also this critical mental exercise that so many of us fail to practice that often harms us. We don’t think realistically about the downside of our actions.

And, to be honest, that’s the wonderful thing about Americans: we are optimists. We attempt the impossible because we refuse to see the impossibilities. That’s what makes us scrappy, entrepreneurial, rugged, dogged, where many of us have an I-can’t-let-some-stupid-virus-stop-me-from-living-my-best-life mindset. That’s an attribute—in a pre-pandemic world.

My mother. I love her. She’s an octogenarian. She’s old. And last week she went to a store with my sister and picked up legos for my first born son. And I scolded her for it. Because, to me, going to the store with my sister to pick up legos for my son isn’t worth the risk of putting herself in danger of getting a virus that would likely kill her. But she scoffed at me.

The virus turns optimism against us. It seizes that which is usually a strength in a non-pandemic world and turns it into, not only a weakness, but a weapon. See, my mother’s ventures into a toy store can lead to her getting herself, or me, or my son, or others, sick.

Often we don’t even know what the stakes are. We’re completely unaware. That’s especially true now. I think it’s because the virus can’t be seen and anyone who’s sick is behind hospital walls and you can’t really see what is going on with them. All we have are some stories people tell us in the media or social media. And we lack the imagination and awareness (maybe even the humility) to apply those horrific accounts to ourselves.

Till it’s too late.

The pandemic is a long view problem. Short term desires and actions only threaten and kill more people. There are no quick fixes. It needs to be handled with creating new habits, patterns, thinking that affect our lives. But too many refuse to think that way, and, instead, they do what they want when they want because that’s what they’ve always done.

But the pandemic isn’t about losing money or failure or losing a job or getting broken up with—no. It’s about death. It’s about forfeiting your life, or, worse, your actions costing the lives of your loved ones. When we are cavalier and careless, trying to live on as if the pandemic didn’t exist, we aren’t endangering just ourselves; we are risking the lives of everyone we love, too.

See, the world has changed; and in order to survive, even thrive in it, we must also change. We must adapt. What once was safe is now dangerous, no matter how optimistic we feel. And with each interaction with the physical world, we must measure it against this new reality.

And if you do, there is reward.

It’s life.


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Cookies, covid, and a confession

Three words likely have never been seen together, but there they are, in the title, all alliterated, and weird. Let me explain. A couple of weeks ago we shipped the most amount of cookies since the start of our Clean Cookie Company, but covid slowed our shipments; and we’ve got to own the fact that our packaging sucks.

When we got a surge of orders, we thought that we might need to refund close to a grand worth of cookies because we had never shipped that many cookies and performed a last minute packaging change. Yes, refunding all of those orders would have tasted bitter but we were ready to do it or ship out another round of them.

But we didn’t have to. The cookies got to almost everyone. However, it wasn’t all perfection.

One person said that USPS notified her that her package arrived but there was nothing on the doorstep. We’re still trying to figure out what happened to those phantom cookies.

But most friends, from what we’ve heard, received theirs and enjoyed the taste. Some of the cookies were uglier than others because of the ninety degree summer heat. But they got there, and they tasted fresh, which was a relief.

Covid caused massive delays. USPS had staffing issues. And what should have taken two to three days took five to seven. Not ideal. But considering the circumstances (that we’re in a, you know, pandemic), we were grateful they arrived at all.

We were also grateful that refunds weren’t necessary. But now have a different problem.

You see, our packaging isn’t great. Actually it’s terrible. Sure, it keeps the cookies fresh, which is great, but the material isn’t.

We vacuum seal the cookies in baggy plastic bags, which feels like a parachute of plastic, when we ship them.

And while I’m sealing them, my six year old is lecturing me about how much plastic we are using and how we’re killing the environment and how it’s wrong. Every word feels like a stab, because he’s right. And we’ve received similar feedback from customers, friends.

The truth is is that we’ve eliminated a lot plastic in our home. We use silicone and glass and steel instead for storage. And there’s a part of me that wants to justify that that’s good enough. But it’s not. And just because those bags keep our cookies fresh and good for our customers doesn’t make it fresh and good for the environment. We recognize that.

So we may not be refunding our generous and good customers, but we are looking to return our plastic bags. At least we are researching the best alternatives so that we can be good to the earth and still send cookies that taste like heaven.

We don’t have a good answer yet.

But, we are committed to finding one.

You can survive this time

Sometimes authority is wrong. In America, it’s woefully wrong about the pandemic.

Everything is not ok. It’s not safe.

I’m not trying to be a fear-monger. I’m just telling you the truth.

I don’t want you to get sick. I don’t want you to spread this disease to your loved ones.

Look, our leaders are failing us. When leadership fails, we must lead ourselves.

When governments fail to use reason, data, wisdom, we must self-regulate.

We must stay informed and help, encourage, challenge, and bless each other.

I’m not saying this time is easy. No, it’s terrible. It kick-you-in-the-face challenging. It’s “unprecedented.”

We must use our minds, stay calm, and not rush into a world that no longer exists. It’s not safe.

But I have hope. I believe this will pass. It will be safe again. But it’s just not now.

In the meantime, practice caution, call friends and family, eat delicious food, read books, binge a show, learn a new skill, occupy your time with healthy, socially distanced activities.

And when you get through this, you’ll be stronger than ever.

Stay well, friends.

Love,

John


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The pandemic isn’t over

It’s a matter of life or death. What is? This: Who you’re listening to. Don’t listen to the stories, the ideological frameworks, the politics, businesses, even your own urges.

Everyone has their agenda; campaigners want to win campaigns; businesses want your money; government officials want to be voted back in office; you just want everything to feel ok. They, and you, are all biased and want something from you. Don’t heed them.

This week we had a school official reach out to us to get our child to come to a meet and greet at his new school, to meet his new teacher, which would be incredible—if it weren’t for the virus ravaging our world population. And the school official emailed repeatedly, asking us to come into the classroom with other kids. Yes, it would be a smallish group, but still indoors with others. We asked if we could do it out of doors. She said no.

We didn’t listen to her.

You shouldn’t listen to them either.

You should listen to the data.

And the data is speaking loudly. It’s saying this.

The virus is alive and well.

And it’s dangerous.


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Is normal worth the risk?

Quarantining, not hugging, being isolated, fighting the virus is exhausting. All of it. We want to get back to living, normal. But friends, we mustn’t rush.

Plunging into seeing people, going to the office, traveling, all of that, isn’t safe no matter what the politicians say, governments do, how those around you behave.

I’m seeing it around me: family, friends, neighbors, in Middle America, wanting life to resume in pre-pandemic style, wishing the virus away, hoping for the best.

At the end of this month my church will resume in-person services. They said they will have protocols to keep people safe.

I doubt it.

And I hope nothing happens; but the questions are How much risk do you want to take? and Is it worth it?

Seeing people is important, so is going to church in person, but is it worth risking your life when there is no treatment or vaccine?

There are things worth risking your life for, like saving another human, your loved ones, standing up for your principles, your faith, to love, serving your country.

But seeing your friends now, traveling for business, going to church when you can do all of that virtually isn’t worth risking the lives of your community, family, friends—your life.

The reality is that the virus is still here, alive—killing.

So, friends, please be patient. I want to run out and hug people, strangers even, but resist the urge to mingle, taking unnecessary risks.

Stay vigilant.

Be patient.

Lots of love, John


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You Have Great Power

You are not powerless; you have a choice.

You can choose to avoid the news, build a routine, exercise, connect with a friend, read a great book—hope.

It’s not easy in this time, I get it.

Shifting your mind from focusing on the negative to healthier activities is your decision.

Decide to feed your mind stories that lift the spirit, move your body even if it’s just for a few minutes, take a walk outside, meditate, pray, get to sleep at a better hour, call someone and ask them how they’re doing, and turn off your notifications for the news.

Whatever you do, make decisions to further your health and, where you can, the health of others.

You have far more power than you may realize.

You are powerful enough to change the way you think and feel.

Lots of love,

John


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Finding Rest Right Now

We’re tired. Fighting a pandemic is exhausting. Even if you’re home alone or with kids or whatever, this is taking a lot more energy than we ever imagined it would.

Who knew homeschooling was like herding cats and trying to teach them math.

And then there’s the militaristic effort to sanitize everything—I mean everything—before it gets into your house. That alone can grind you down to a nub.

Lately I even find myself getting a little sloppier with my sanitization practices. Usually at the grocery store I ask the person checking me out to sanitize their hands before touching our groceries. But recently I didn’t. Staying hyper vigilant is getting harder.

Yes, we shouldn’t slack. We need to continue herding the cats, sanitizing, etc., but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn how to rest even in the midst of a battle.

Just because you’re working a lot or not at all doesn’t mean your mind isn’t overworked. That’s what a crisis does. It makes you worry, stress, think. That’s a lot of work no matter how busy you are. So finding a respite for your head is essential.

Find times to stop working or worrying. Watch a funny video or read a chapter of a beautiful novel that doesn’t have anything to do with viruses or a pandemic and sit back and enjoy the ride. (Need some material? See below.) Pray, meditate, exercise, but whatever you do don’t read the news.

Find ways to practice self-care. Create space for yourself or your partner, so you can do the things you need to stay as healthy as you can. They don’t need to be long moments, just long enough.

Even in a pandemic, or especially so, we need to know our limits and take the time to find restoration. Doing that will help you continue this fight.

Stay well.

Great Reads To Divert Your Mind

In These Trying Times I Want to Remind My Followers I Have A Ridiculously Hot Body :: Beware! Laughter will pour out of you if you read this. My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore? :: This is related to the pandemic, but it’s an incredibly well written story that gives us all perspective. It’s strangely diverting. 

Jeff Bezos’s Lazy Saturday Morning Routine :: Another funny gut busting piece. 


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