Worry, Concern and COVID-19

(Springtime in Minnesota: and a winter weather advisory.)

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t affected us much here in central Minnesota. Apart from the governor’s stay-at-home order, no Mass and new shopping rules.

A winter weather advisory starts tonight. That explains the mid-afternoon dusk outside.

My son is still sick. Not as sick as he was a few days back, but he’s not going back to work yet. Maybe he’s got a non-COVID-19 sort of bronchitis.

Or a mild case of the current pandemic disease. Likely enough, we’ll never know.

As I’ve said before, Minnesota medicos only have so many test kits. Reserving them for folks who need a diagnosis makes sense.

Which doesn’t keep me from worrying. Momentarily, when I’m paying attention.

Worry Happens, Concern is a Choice

As far as I know, merimnaphilia isn’t in the DSM. Or anywhere else.

DSM? That’s the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s frequently-updated catalog of ways our minds can go haywire.

I’d been looking for a word meaning ‘love of worrying.’ And not finding one. Which is why I decided to make one.

We have Greek-derived words for a mess of psychiatric disorders: philias for disordered fondness, phobias for unreasonable fears. But not merimnaphilia, excessive love of worrying. Not until now.

If my neologism was in the DSM, folks who enjoy worrying too much would be told they’ve got merimnaphilia. Then there’s the issue of deciding how much is “too much.”

I’m not sure that worrying, the emotional analog of concern — angst, general uneasiness — is ever something to encourage.

Worry, like any other emotion, happens. There’s no point in worrying about worrying.

Experiencing emotions is part of being human. There’s nothing wrong with emotions, by themselves. Not until I decide what I’ll do. (Catechism, 17621770)

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure there’s a line between too much and too little concern. Maybe more a borderland than a line, and I’m drifting off-topic.

Or maybe not so much. There’s no shortage of reasons for concern.

New Orleans Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras, New Orleans, 2019.
(From Infrogmation of New Orleans, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Mardi Gras, New Orleans, 2019. Before COVID-19.)

Mardi Gras, “fat Tuesday” in French, started as a way to use up a household’s supply of lard and fat before Lent. Or maybe as ancient celebrations like Saturnalia.

It’s also a nationally-famous annual party in New Orleans.

Folks from around the country come to see the parades, visit the bars, and enjoy a temporary suspension of societal norms.

I’m not convinced, at all, that it’s a reasonable way to get ready for Lent, and that’s another topic for another day.

The New Orleans Mardi Gras is also a major money-maker for the city. Which may help explain why the parties and parades happened again in February.

Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. I can look back and see why Mardi Gras 2020 shouldn’t have happened. But I didn’t have to decide whether or not to cancel an economically significant event.

And I don’t know what the folks with that responsibility knew, or how they saw what we now call COVID-19.

Maybe the new coronavirus disease looked like something mostly limited to China.

WHO, the World Health Organization, didn’t call it a “public health emergency of international concern” until January 30.

It wasn’t declared a pandemic until March 11.

By then, the Mardi Gras parties were over and people were getting sick. Some have died.

Some of the dead are known only to their friends and families. Others are among New Orleans’ high-profile personalities.

It’s not all bad news. Apparently there’s discussion of whether other massive get-togethers should go ahead as planned.1

Los Angeles: A U.S. Navy Hospital Ship and an Earnest Engineer

USNS Mercy: Relief for Los Angeles Hospitals

USNS Mercy (T-AH 20), arriving in Los Angeles (March 27, 2020)
(From US Navy, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(March 27, 2020; Los Angeles, California: USNS Mercy arrives.)

USNS Mercy Begins Treating Patients in Los Angeles
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Natalie Byers, Washington Headquarters Services News (March 30, 2020)

“…While in Los Angeles, the ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, and will provide a full spectrum of medical care, including general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults. This will allow local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their intensive care units and ventilators for those patients….”

I figure most folks in Los Angeles were glad to see the hospital ship Mercy arrive.

At least one chap saw the big white ship as a threat. And tried to “wake people up” to some sinister scenario involving COVID-19. Like a government takeover. Or something.

Maybe he’s right. But I don’t think so. I really don’t think so.

A Desire to “Wake People Up”

USNS Mercy, photo by Mark J. Terrill/API’m also quite sure that the AP and NPR aren’t in cahoots with the U. S. Department of Justice in a conspiracy to oppress us.

Although it could make a good story. I’ll get back to that.

Man intentionally derailed LA train near hospital ship, feds say
AP via NPR (April 1, 2020)

“A train engineer intentionally drove a speeding locomotive off a track at the Port of Los Angeles because he was suspicious about the presence of a Navy hospital ship docked there….”

Train Operator at Port of Los Angeles Charged with Derailing Locomotive Near U.S. Navy’s Hospital Ship Mercy
Press release, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, Department of Justice (April 1, 2020)

“…Moreno ran the train off the end of tracks, and crashed through a series of barriers before coming to rest more than 250 yards from the Mercy. No one was injured in the incident….

“…In his first interview with the Los Angeles Port Police, Moreno acknowledged that he ‘did it,’ saying that he was suspicious of the Mercy and believing it had an alternate purpose related to COVID-19 or a government takeover … he said he knew it would bring media attention and ‘people could see for themselves,’ referring to the Mercy…

“…In a second interview with FBI agents, Moreno stated that ‘he did it out of the desire to ‘wake people up,'” according to the affidavit. ‘Moreno stated that he thought that the U.S.N.S. Mercy was suspicious and did not believe “the ship is what they say it’s for.”‘….”

The good news here is that nobody got hurt. And that Los Angeles has staff and equipment  to clean up the mess left by a runaway locomotive.

The not-so-good news is that a train engineer thought that driving a train toward a hospital ship was a good idea.

I’d like to say that I’m surprised. But I’m not. Not entirely.

Assuming that the happily-rare strident statements I read in social media reflect sincerely held beliefs, a few folks are convinced that skullduggery is continually afoot. And burn with a fervent desire to “wake people up.”

How, and whether, to respond to hotheads is yet another topic.

‘Good Enough for a Story?’

In more tranquil times, a ‘malevolent mercy’ conspiracy might make a good story.

Maybe something along the lines of that 1956 classic, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

Then again, maybe not.

In any case, I’ll keep trying to avoid excessive worrying, reserve concern for matters that require or permit it — and try to avoid catching whatever my son has. He’s not enjoying the illness, and I doubt that I would.

More of how I see these interesting times:

1 Events and news; good, bad and undecided:

About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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4 Responses to Worry, Concern and COVID-19

  1. Worry seems to be a “passion”, in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas — something that happens to us, something that we suffer; or in more modern terms, as you put it, an “emotion” that “happens.”

    I’m not quite sure where it fits in his classification of the passions of the “irascible power”, which responds to goods and evils when they are apprehended as being difficult to achieve (goods) or avoid (evils). These are:

    1. Hope: movement of approach towards a difficult, but possible, good.
    2. Despair: movement of withdrawal from a difficult, impossible good.
    3. Daring: movement of approach towards a difficult evil that is possible
    to overcome.
    4. Fear: movement of withdrawal from a difficult evil, one we judge to be
    impossible to overcome.
    5. Anger: movement of vengeance (apprehended as a good) in redress of an evil.

    It seems to me that worry might be either a mild form of fear, or a mixture of fear and daring. When I worry, I’m thinking about what might happen, and how the evil might happen (in various ways), and at least sometimes, how I might respond to it. My contemplated responses might be either fight or flight. Such worrying is a form of planning, but not a pleasant form.

    As for the habit of excessive worry, would you say it is a psychiatric disorder or a vice? Or could it be both?

    The vice of cowardice, a habit of excessive fear, is manifested in running away from what shouldn’t be feared or shouldn’t be run away from. I don’t think worry falls into that category: it’s not running away, and it’s not always about something that shouldn’t be feared.

    If someone worries “too much”, what makes it excessive? I think it would be more a matter of fittingness to the circumstances than quantity. But would worrying too much be a matter of too much planning, or too much of those unpleasant feelings that come with the contemplation of the evil thing we are worrying about?

    • 🙂 Good points, good questions – and thank you for both/all. I’ll want to think about these.

      Off the top of my head, a habit – a well-established pattern – of worrying might, I suspect be a vice **and** a psychiatric disorder. Much would depend on how “worry,” “disorder” and other terms get defined. (How’s that for a non-committal answer?)

      You’ve given me good questions, and maybe something to write about. Assuming that I find answers, or at least interesting reasons for not finding answers. 😉

      Thanks again!

  2. Ah, I think I’ve been indulging in such madness as well, especially the “wake people up” variety. Maybe not publicly much, but privacy doesn’t necessarily mean inability to sin, so yeah. “God sees you,” so did a Saint’s mother once say. And speaking of which, concepts like privacy and surveillance in relation to God and His power sound like quite timely material for discussion, yeah? XD

Thanks for taking time to comment!