Being Numb, 2020

By Frank Blechman

You may be familiar with an old vaudeville sketch in which a man is walking down a road when he sees another man hitting himself in the head with a hammer. 

The first man approaches the second, asking, “What are you doing?  Doesn’t that hurt?”

“Of course, it hurts,” says the second man.

“Then WHY are you doing it?” 

“I am hitting myself in the head with hammer because it feels so good when I stop.”

(rimshot, laughter)

–     –     –

In the same vein, we also know the saying, “That hit a nerve,” to describe an overreaction to some external event. And finally, we know that when we hit a nerve repeatedly, it stops hurting and becomes numb.

–     –     –

Overloaded by the drone of pandemic news, the stream of election-year nonsense, and now the daily street protests, my senses are numb.  I know that I should be moved to outraged action, but I find myself retreating from the sameness of my day after day routines and the repeated hammering of the outside events. It feels so good when I stop.

I wish I could prescribe a simple remedy. In 1965, I knew the answer. In 1975, I was more sure. In 1990, I was certain. Today, I am not confident.


So, with no surety, here’s my simple bromide for numbness: GET OUT THERE!

Sitting and watching alone is almost never energizing. When our team wins, we might cheer, but when our team wins and we are in the stands with 50,000 people going crazy with joy, that is an entirely different experience. We feel it electrically. We feel it emotionally. We will never correct problems of injustice, cruelty, or banality muttering to ourselves. At the risk of spreading the coronavirus, we need to get out to draw on the energy of others. We need to move. 

It sounds silly, but in my experience, that is how everything moves.



Categories: coronavirus, Issues, Local, National, pandemic, politics, press

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