On Edge

I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’ve noticed people on edge lately. The horrific shooting this past week at the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in San Jose, California is the latest example. The gunman, a VTA employee, was reported to have been under such intense pressure at work that he finally snapped. The media described him as “highly disgruntled.” Certainly, he was disgruntled enough to murder eight coworkers and kill himself after trying to burn his house down.

This is an extreme example, but you don’t have to go very far to find varying degrees of edginess. I’ve run across people on edge as they shop for groceries, walk their dogs, park their cars, and eat meals. They look stressed, even fearful, which comes as a surprise after the highly-anticipated Covid vaccine. Life was supposed to return to normal after getting it. We even have three flavors to choose from, but it seems that masks, social distancing, and vaccines haven’t quite moved the needle (pardon the pun) as they like to say in business school.

If what I have observed is real and people are just as anxious and on edge as ever, two questions come to mind: why and what’s to be done about it? As to why, it’s becoming clear that the virus, while putting people on edge initially–and for good reason–isn’t the source of the edginess. If it were, half the country would feel relieved right now; the half that’s been vaccinated. But that’s not the case. Not only is there more edginess, but there’s more crime, too, including violent crime. It’s not from the pandemic. Covid doesn’t shoot coworkers or burn houses down. People do things like that when they snap from being overworked or unemployed; that is, when despair overwhelms them.

So, maybe the edginess I’ve seen on people reflects an underlying despair. Maybe we’ve had it wrong all along. Covid, the economy, and the political, ideological, and racial lines that divide us are distracting us from the real problem. That problem is despair, which, morally speaking, is a sin. If this is true, there’s no vaccine that can inoculate people from it. It will continue to spread even after Big Pharma develops vaccines for Covid20 and beyond. The fearful will continue to act out of desperation and look to experts for answers, surrendering even more of their individual freedoms. If this sounds like hyperbole, consider showing your face in public. Imagine a scenario in which this suddenly becomes a privilege, vaccination or not.

To answer the second question, what is to be done, we have to define despair. I’m sure some of us have lost control at some point in our lives and felt the granite-like weight of panic on our chest that made it difficult to breathe. Despair can do that by ripping away our identity and everything we thought we knew about ourselves and the world around us. Nor can we find relief from the torment that comes from losing our identity. Worse, despair can convince us that everything we have been living is a lie; that we have deluded ourselves and wasted our time on dreams that never will come true because of some flaw or inadequacy. Is that not agony? Despair has got to be the air of hell.

This is why the answer to being on edge is faith. Faith drives away despair and leads us toward ultimate meaning. The distinction is clear. Despair feeds on disorder and chaos. Faith recognizes an order in the universe that we catch glimpses of here in the microcosm of Earth and in relationships with others even when the earthly order is imperfect. Key to understanding this and benefitting from it is realizing that we have a choice. We can choose one or the other: order or disorder. This is a moral issue and why despair is counted as a sin.

Realistically, though, it doesn’t seem like much of a choice at all. Unless you work for a circus, why would you want to walk on a tightrope?

Image credits: feature by Sean Benesh; hand by Stormseeker; prayer by Timothy Eberly. Remember and pray for all those who have died in battle this Memorial Day (see In Memoriam: Vincent Cannizzaro). Note: Look for the first episode of “The Brancatelli Blog Pod” this Wednesday, June 2, 2021 on Mittwoch Matinee.

Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”

8 comments

  1. Aye, Robert…The thing is, at least, one thing is that the bonds of family, communities, religious, and otherwise, are just not there. A part of this may be the reluctance of people to become involved or to believe that they have any responsibility to others.
    Individuals and families are hanging on by a thread. When people see or experience that they are left without assistance or even the presence of others at the most dire times of their lives, they become reluctant to become involved in accepting responsibility for the smallest action. People do not want to risk taking responsibility for care of a family member, because they believe they will be left “holding the bag.” And, often, they will be left, until they, themselves have lost everything.
    This morning, the health aide that was scheduled to visit to allow me a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, left me a text, asking if she could come at 10 pm tonight, instead of 1 pm this afternoon. She wanted to spend time with her boyfriend. Although I pay and treat this person well, I am frequently at the mercy of if or when someone will come. I understand… The thing is ,I would be very reluctant to put myself in the position I’m in because I know that I must carry the total responsibility.

    1. Thanks for this, Susan. It sounds as if you have been left holding the bag. I’m sorry to hear that. To paraphrase Mother Theresa, if they leave you holding the bag, then go ahead and hold it, up high even. Of course, there’s also WC Fields, who said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then give the whole thing up. There’s no use being a fool about it!”

      1. Love it!!! Humor helps:). Today was difficult: touch of flu and nose bleeds amidst our hospice drama. Anyway, when I sat down in my easy chair to rest, as Laura slept, my cat, Minnie, came out of her daytime secret napping place, jumped into my lap and cuddled near my heart, sleeping. I was so thankful for my guardian angel watch cat…I felt loved and comforted.

  2. Now that I’ve been proven correct about the stupidity of outdoor mask wearing; the WUHAN VIRUS originating in a lab; and the catastrophic results from excessive lockdowns, may I just add the PSYCHOLOGICAL DAMAGE from isolation due to all the above? It’s a movie cliche, but “God, I hate it when I’m right all the time.” Let’s just add another layer of the stupidity of local and state elected and unelected officials and PRESTO! Instant neuroses on steroids.

    I’ve also been saying FOR A YEAR that Covid is going to cause more psychological damage than physical because we ceded the authority of our lives to the state for some faux safety and security. Little of which was actually needed. Again, right again, George.

    To the point in your brilliant article, the church of which I am a member (Communicant Lutheran) folded up like lawn furniture through threats and intimidation by the local authorities, none of whom graduated any higher than the bottom third in their class. Roman Catholicism took on fundamentalist Islam for centuries; Martin Luther took on Roman Catholicism and Dietrich Bonhoeffer took on Adolf Hitler (The real one, not the fake one put forth by Hysterical Liberals); and Judaism continues to beat back the forces of extinction.

    What did we do in 2020? Closed the church doors. Denied congregants the very thing they needed in such a time. Faith. But not just faith in the church, though that would have been nice. Faith in ourselves. Faith enough to stare down a so-called pandemic without the bungling of an inert CDC, an inept WHO, and a clod-hopping and as it turns out vicious and nefarious Tony “Baloney” Fauci.

    We opened our doors one day and shouted, “I give up!”

    And now, unless we can find our spines AND our faith, the characterless morons we’ve installed in office will continue their fear-mongering and paranoid-investing mantra of “Can’t live your life! Not yet! Not until we say so!”

    We will have to wrestle it from them, and that includes going back to worship WITHOUT A STUPID FACE MASK ON.

    Can we do that?

  3. Robert, I think we’ve almost had the perfect storm – coronavirus, election chaos and racial conflict. Any one of these would be bad enough, but taken together they have caused nothing but anxiety, fear and rage against those elected to lead through such difficulties.

    I agree with George. Despite all of the money taxpayers devote to the CDC, the WHO, federal officials and half of the state governors, the quality of their a) decision making and b) communications has caused nothing but confusion and chaos.

    The lesson I have learned is the importance of elections, up and down the line, to the lowest level. Just because someone is President of the United States, or serves on a local school board, doesn’t mean they are qualified to handle the most elementary tasks. I must be more diligent in researching candidates, especially at the local level.

    In the meantime, I am vaccinated and my mask is off. Others are free to do what they want, and I hope that we have learned enough that 2020-2021 is the last time we abandon common sense and listen to any “experts”.

    Perhaps peace and serenity now follow, for all of us.

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