Since the arrival of the virus and the declaration by the World Health Organization of pandemic status (epidemic disease spreading to many countries), fear has settled on our planet like a wild and devastating fire. The Covid-19 pandemic is the latest disease of a sick world.
We have found ourselves helpless, lacking sufficient scientific certainty on which to base our understanding of the causes of the crisis, its possible evolution and the best way to deal with it. In this situation of supervening alarm, it seems that it is the extreme voices that shout the loudest, and the social majority, almost totally silent, remains more demobilized than before and more afraid than ever.
Professor Francisco Mora, professor of neuroscience at the Complutense University of Madrid, defines fear as follows: “Innate emotion that occurs in the animal world and is expressed to the maximum extent in mammals, including humans. It is produced by a danger or threat to survival, real or evoked by its memory. In the human being this emotion, thanks to the intricate mechanisms that generate consciousness, is elevated to an unpleasant feeling that, depending on its intensity, can become terror, panic and even paralyzing.”
Fear can also be defined in other ways. The one I like the most is the one that uses the acronym F.E.A.R., and it would be a false expectation or presentiment of negative content, which we assume as real. Titus Livius said that fear is always ready to see things worse than they are. Fear can be controlled or overcome on most if not all occasions. Once fear is conquered, faith, any kind of faith, is unnecessary, and, in fact, we could consider faith, any kind of faith, as a pathology of the human mind.
The British writer and scientist Arthur C. Clarke argued that the greatest tragedy of all human history may have been the hijacking of morality by religions. Among the twelve children of Gaia (nurse) and Uranus (general practitioner) stands out the intellectual titan Mario Bunge, henceforth M.B., who effectively managed to storm heaven. There he resides after living more than one hundred years on this precarious planet, having left us the wise teaching of his scientific work. According to M.B., the best ideas are those that open the mind, not the mouth.
In this regard, Albert Einstein is often attributed with the comparison of the mind with a parachute that only works if it is opened. Therefore, the good ideas produced in the mind of a human brain are those that provoke and incite the invention of new ideas. This is the strength of some of them, and the weakness of others is that they immobilize rather than mobilize. In any case, let us not exaggerate the importance of ideas. The great Rousseau considered them inferior to feelings, but it is not a matter of classifying but of systemically integrating the feeling-thinking mind with correct action.
Fighting fear with humor
Humor can and should help us in this laudable task if it is appropriate humor, if it is good humor. They say in the most tremendous of the Diario Público that humor is one of the strongest weapons against hatred and lies of the intransigent and anti-democrats. We are not going to consider these questions of bad humor or black humor here. We are going to scorn them. Funny ideas, good humorous ideas can make us open our minds and mouths at the same time. By making us laugh, they make us immortal for a few seconds. It seems to me even naive and daring to call this immortality quantum.
We all know, since the times of the Roman Empire, that human beings are the “morituri”, those who are going to die and are aware of it. However, the taboo of death is still installed in our cultures. In December last year, the Congress of Deputies approved the passage of the law on the right to euthanasia and assisted suicide (L.O.R.E.). One more flower in the world.
The magazine D.M.D. in its number 82 says in this regard that the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic is a real sunami that has brought to light many of the deficiencies of our society. It has shown, for example, the poor implementation of health rights, especially the right to a dignified death. Epidemiological reasons and lack of resources have led thousands of people to die alone, if not deprived of the necessary care, even though health professionals without resources and in a context as unprecedented as it is unbearable, have done what they could.
On March 18, 2021, the Congress of Deputies approved, with 200 votes in favor, 141 against and two abstentions, the last part of the law which will come into force in three months’ time. Thus Spain is in fifth place of all the countries in the world that regulate euthanasia. To celebrate this date we could try to bury the taboo of death. Maybe death is nature’s way of telling us to slow down. Says W. Shakespeare in Hamlet: “Death is the undiscovered country from whose borders no passenger returns”, in Julius Caesar: “Cowards die many times before their death”, and also in Hamlet: “To be or not to be, that is the question”.
By fighting fear with good humor, we can more easily learn from this pandemic year and try to remedy the mistakes by moving towards a more egalitarian and sustainable society and therefore healthier globally. James Nestor’s book, Breathe, an international best seller recently published in Spanish, cited in the references, can also help us out of this impasse with a new, healthier paradigm. So, let us prioritize health, which is one and triune at the same time (physical, mental and emotional) whether we have a pandemic or not.