One of the more puzzling aspects I have found in the past few weeks is the complicated interaction between my own personal life and how it is going and the fate of the world around me. As is likely the case with many other people who are reflective and somewhat deeply self-critical, this time of year is often a painful one as I reflect upon my own personal struggles and how much more overcoming needs to happen. Yet while there was certainly plenty of that going on this year , I also noticed in general that I did not feel the same sort of existential panic and unhappiness this year that I have sometimes felt in the past , and that while the world around me seemed particularly grim and unhappy I found myself to be relatively able to deal with it. To be sure, I felt a bit more isolated than normal, but not to a huge degree. If some of my habits have changed (with restaurants being closed and all that), I am hardly less social now than I was before, it is just that I was a somewhat unsociable person in a world where a lot more people were more social, and now I am someone who goes out and about far more than most of my neighbors, which is something odd and bizarre to think about. I think being out and about to any degree in a time like this makes one less gloomy, and I’m all about that, even if it does create a somewhat adversarial relationship with those who would seek to imprison others in their fear and anxiety and concern.
There can be a lot to gain when one is outside of the currents of the world and able to look at them from the point of view of an outsider. Most of us spend a great deal of our life trying to fit in and to be insiders who can be close to power and people of influence in the institutions that we care most about. There is a great deal of strength that one can gain with a sense of perspective, and some level of distance is necessary for us to have the perspective that allows us to see things as they are and not merely as they make us feel. This distance can be emotional, it can be temporal, it can be geographical, or it can result from an ability to compartmentalize things and analyze them in one part of our minds while being able to respond to it as a human being would in other parts of our minds. However we manage to attain a sense of distance, we are able to look at the world around us from a dispassionate enough position that we can avoid being emotionally manipulated by what are obviously charged events loaded with pregnant symbolism and importance. If we find it necessary to allow that emotional resonance to influence how we respond, we should at least take some effort at dialing down our emotional response because at times others wish to overload us emotionally so that we respond in a stereotyped and irrational fashion and thus do great harm to ourselves and our interests.
How does one go about swimming against the current? Frequently while growing up in Florida there would be a sad story on the news about someone who had died while being caught up in a rip tide and having drowned after being exhausted trying to fight against it. Frequently, if one wants to get back to the shore, one can swim to the side of the rip tide to find a place where it is not in operation and then swim back to the store. Likewise, if one is drying to swim against the current or sail against the wind one has to tack in a diagonal fashion and seek some sort of shelter that can cut the strength of the current or the adverse wind. Simply going against the current directly is often overwhelming and wasteful of one’s energies, while adopting a more intelligent response requires a certain amount of patience and savvy and restraint. The adverse circumstances of our times and the frequently adverse responses of incompetent authorities to the crises of those times are a strong current that we would be wise to swim against, but which require a certain amount of wisdom to do so successfully. That wisdom is not always present even when we have a fervent desire to go against the wickedness and folly of our present evil age.
How, then, do we accomplish this task? If we are to successfully go against the current without bringing destruction upon ourselves, we must dedicate ourselves to outsmarting the circumstances that we have to face. Understanding ourselves and how we operate, understanding the times as best as we can so that we can work hard to separate what is reasonable concern from what is over-inflated fear and panic, and understanding how others operate so that we can adjust our own behavior and rhetoric accordingly is vitally important. Having a sense of distance and even alienation from what is going around us can allow us the ability to see things from a more rational perspective while at the same time recognizing that our ability to convey our insights to others may be limited by the lack of distance that others have from the problem. Having a sense of humility and recognizing that others involved may lack that humility can help us recognize when wisdom comes from others even as we seek to avoid either under or over-estimating what is going on. To the extent that we can use insights from other areas where going against the current is necessary, we may do our part in being both wise and discerning as well as harmless and blameless, a balance that is important for our own safety as much as for the benefit of those around us.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: