Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is. –German proverb
I do not intend to dismiss the very real health concerns raised by ebola. Nor would I dismiss the very real sorrows and pains of those or their loved ones who have suffered this dread disease.
The point of the German proverb about wolves, however, comes to mind: there actually is a wolf. And wolves are dangerous. There’s nothing to be gained, however, by making the wolf bigger than he already is within the confines of our minds.
Heart-freezing fear turns we human beings into our lower, primal selves, where reason and logic do not hold much sway. And it’s all well and good to suggest that the primal protects us. But the primal cannot accurately interpret data. Just ask any deer foolish enough to get ‘caught’ (frozen like a . . .) in the headlights of an oncoming car. Two steps to the left and the deer is fine. Standing frozen in place is just a primordial recipe for sure disaster and certain death, because the deer is freezing to blend in with its habitation. Its primordial self seeks to avoid the predator. But a car isn’t a predator. And there is no blending in on the highway.
All over the United States, I suspect, conversations like a recent random bridge-table remark I chanced upon, are happening, where someone will suggest that we quarantine pretty much all of Africa, at least from coming here, with no awareness of irony at all when confronted with the virus-ridden children of the United States and the question of whether Africa should insist on their quarantine as well.
There are wolves. And they are dangerous. But most of the time, they aren’t nearly so large as we would make them in the shadow-puppetry of our minds. And we would do well to remember that and just calm down.
Frightened people are foolish people. They overreact rather than merely react. They stand stuck, frozen in place in the face of their oncoming annihilation, when a step or two to the left (or right, lest someone read a political intention into my choice of direction) would make all the difference. They destroy the thing feared, as if that would destroy the fear.
And fears continue to walk the lands. And all is not well. Nor will it be, so long as we continue to allow the wolf to grow into a monster on the wall, forgetting that he is a mere wolf, after all.