The Concert in the Egg

Embracing Life While Also Facing Mortality

Most of us are feeling a bit anxious these days. The ironic notion that life is a sexually transmitted condition with 100 percent mortality is a little too close for comfort. Yet somehow, we put it together with spring and find an imperative for embracing life. This is, after all, a season of renewal.

Pandemic Anxiety

Anxiety is an unmistakable feature of our response to the coronavirus pandemic. Suddenly in the last week, everyone started wearing face masks – with good reason. Let’s all keep our germs to ourselves for a while. But it is interesting how the masks serve to focus us upon a person’s eyes. And when we look into the eyes of people at the grocery or the pharmacy, we’re seeing anxiety.

This is not purely speculation. Right now, 75 percent of Americans are worrying that they or someone close to them will become infected with the new coronavirus. This number is still rising.

A Healthy Response, Up to a Point

Anxiety is a natural response to a threat. It can be quite helpful because it spurs us to do things that will insure our survival – like avoid hot, crowded parties, for example. But it can also consume us.

David Brooks asked his readers to tell him how they were coping with the pandemic and he found fear and agony:

What you sent gutted me. There have been over 5,000 replies so far, and while many people are hanging in there, there is also a river of woe running through the world — a significant portion of our friends and neighbors are in agony.

I’m reminded that this is a time to practice aggressive friendship with each other — to be the one who seeks out the lonely and the troubled. It’s also true that character is formed in times like this. People see deeper into themselves, bravely learn what their pain is teaching them, and become wiser and softer as a result.

Looking Back to the 17th Century

In 1984, Marilyn Duckworth cobbled together the idea that life is both sexually transmitted and 100 percent fatal. But you can trace the roots of this notion back to the 17th century. English poet Abraham Crowley concluded his poem “To Dr. Scarborough” with:

Let Nature, and let Art do what they please,
When all’s done, Life is an Incurable Disease.

That dark sentiment comes from a century when people endured plagues and 30 brutal years of war. Death was always close at hand. And yet, this era spawned the Enlightenment. Human creativity and vitality flourished.

Perhaps this spring, in the midst of great anxiety, we can find renewal in the strength of our communities. Facing death offers us possibilities for embracing life. That is our reason for hope.

For more on confronting anxiety, life, and death, click here and here.

The Concert in the Egg, painting by Hieronymus Bosch / WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


April 12, 2020

4 Responses to “Embracing Life While Also Facing Mortality”

  1. April 12, 2020 at 7:02 am, Christine Rosenbloom said:

    Beautiful post, Ted. Hope you enjoy Easter and it brings some hope of better times for all.

    • April 12, 2020 at 7:49 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Christine. Wishing you a joyous Passover.

  2. April 12, 2020 at 9:07 am, Mary-Jo said:

    ‘When we are crushed like grapes, we cannot think of the wine we will become.’-Henri Nouwen . Henri urges folks to live brokenness, not as confirmation of our fear that we are cursed, but as an opportunity to purify and deepen the blessing that rests upon us. Many of us who have lived with chronic obesity have the gifts of perspective and strength, learned often, the hard way, from enduring/experiencing bias, shame, frustration, physical limitations, co-morbidities, rejection from society and the world, and self-rejection AND surviving it — learning resilience. It’s often through our weakness, that we find the greatest source of strength. This has helped me tremendously In dealing with my fears about coronavirus. Nevertheless, I am so sorry for all the loss of lives in such lonely circumstances, and the added grieving burden it bring to loved ones. I hope and pray the messages of Easter, Passover, and humanity’s history of triumph over adversity resonates more than ever, at this time.☀️🐣

    • April 12, 2020 at 9:12 am, Ted said:

      Beautiful, Mary-Jo. I wish you the very best of Easter joy.