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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 3/24/20

Sorry for the profanity—I don’t write ‘em; I just laugh out loud…


Can’t We Keep Our Distance?

Pooh and Piglet are just too close. And it’s not okay.

We walked a lot this weekend. Increasingly, the streets are getting crowded. Yet there seems a rhythm to walking is developing. Whereas before people would wander, indifferent to those around them, many are on “high alert” for other people. And when others get close, much like magnets with the same polarity, they bounce off of each other before touching. We find ourselves zig-zagging across the street and back to avoid other people; many do the same. Sometimes there’s a knowing smile, sometimes just downward glances.

When walking, remember we are all trying to keep each other safe. You may be holding the health of this stranger in your hand. Avoiding them is an act of kindness. But here’s a thought: try to make eye contact and say “good morning” or “have a nice day.” While not universal, I have found the response often is a big smile and a pleasant response. In this time of physical distancing, we ought not allow our humanity fall victim to our fears and our physical isolation. We’re all looking for—desperate for—human interaction. We don’t need to be physically close to deliver this simple gift.

I’m still trying to figure out why people just don’t seem to be paying attention. We’re now well into the restrictions on non-essential movement and limitations on congregating in groups—and yet the biggest struggle is not for those of us “following the rules,” but in convincing others to join us. There are a number of reasons for this.

JUSTIFICATION: It only affects the old.

REALITY: 38% OF hospital admits are folks between 25-54. There is no natural immunity. Young people are getting sick and dying.

JUSTIFICATION: Messaging from Washington is muddled. Well meaning, educated public servants is being filtered, modified, upstaged, and ignored by politicians.

REALITY: That’s true. But read Dr. Fauci, who slowly, in his own way, is saying “listen to me and not the politicians.”


REALITY: “You are playing with fire if you visit friends,” said Jagdish Khubchandani, an associate chair and professor of health science at Ball State University. “At this point, we have to act like everyone is infected. You can be a risk to yourself, your family, your friends, and the entire community.” My theory on this is to imagine that you are willfully submitting to a passionate kiss with every person your friend may have seen in the past two weeks.

JUSTIFICATION: I’m just one person and it can’t matter.

REALITY: This is all about math. Consider the following meme:

JUSTIFICATION: We’re all going to get it anyway. Why all the fuss?

REALITY: Hey, have you been reading the paper? No one really knows how the disease will affect them. Some will require hospitalization; others will require intensive care. If I stay healthy, so as not to inundate the health care system in this surge, I might be saving your life by not diverting needed care from you in a critical time.

JUSTIFICATION: Everyone else can do it and I’ll be fine.

REALITY: Pretend you live on a cul-de-sac. You need a sewer to be built. If everyone contributes (and does it now), the cost is minimal. But one neighbor says, “screw this. I’m not contributing.” The fact is that all the other neighbors may still put up the money for the selfish one, but the project is delayed further. If there are several selfish neighbors, it’s going to get pretty stinky for a while, and it will cost more, but the others will shoulder the burden. Not okay.


We have all heard the Ode to Joy (the finale to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony) any number of times, in any number of contexts. But this is truly a remarkable rendition, played by the Rotterdam Philharmonic from their own homes. It brings me chills and tears of joy. One of the most sublime pieces of music, written by a near-deaf composer over 200 years ago:

On a personal note, this piece takes me back to any number of Sundays in the 80s and 90s, when I would rush to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to sit with my parents and sister for a Los Angeles Philharmonic matinee. I remember one intermission, when my father commented that I nearly was late for the curtain. My mother smiled and said, “I was never worried. I knew Glenn would never miss this.” And she was right. Now, however, I miss them every day.


Reading For Comfort and Pleasure

A week ago I recommended some great books about fights against diseases. Andrea read that and immediately admonished me that what we all really need are comforting books and not books of disease or dystopia. Apparently she is on the same wavelength as the New York Times, which asked some noted authors to share their favorite “comfort books”:


Being Alone and the Science of well-being

Astronaut Scott Kelly knows a fair bit about isolation, having spent nearly a year in space. He offers some helpful hints:

For those who were on the “wait list” for Yale (or claim they were) but always wanted to attend, here’s your chance. There actually is a class in the “Science of Well Being.” And you can take it!:


Good News Department

Amidst all the bad news, there occasionally is a glimmer of hope. After all, this eventually will come to an end:

First, people are beginning to emerge in China

Second, perhaps it won’t be that bad:

Why this Nobel laureate predicts a quicker coronavirus recovery: ‘We’re going to be fine’

And yet:

The Virus Can Be Stopped, but Only With Harsh Steps, Experts Say

As a perennial optimist, I never thought I would say, “beware of good news.” While the first two stories are encouraging, and while we all need to have hope and be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, that good news cannot cause us to back off from the hard work that lies ahead. The harsh steps described in the third story above are necessary in order that we emerge from this sooner and with fewer casualties. It will be tough. And it will end. It is possible for us to maintain both thoughts simultaneously. Good news should not lull us into taking the foot off the pedal.


A Bit of Humor

See you tomorrow. Enjoy the symphony.

Much love,


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