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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 5/26/20

Dear friends,

We are in the eleventh week of the lockdown. There is no question that there is stress all around. No doubt most feel a sense of loss, even if they are healthy and employed. There is the loss of activities with friends, sense of belonging and purpose. Professionals report a good deal of depression and anxiousness in this time. Coincidentally, all this is happening amidst mental health awareness month.



The World Health Organization warned last Thursday of a mental health crisis, the result of “the isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil” of COVID-19. I asked Miki Jordan, CEO of Wayfinder Family Services for comment:

“Mental Health services are more important than ever during this crisis. Families have fewer resources and more stress, which historically results in higher rates of abuse and neglect – caregivers are being pushed to the edge by circumstances far out of their control. Family routines are being disrupted, there is mass unemployment and, as children are sheltering at home, they are isolated from others who care, including teachers, counselors, daycare providers, medical professionals and other adults who would normally raise concerns about their well-being and report suspected abuse and neglect.

Our mental health caseworkers quickly pivoted to offering counseling and home visits online. We have seen a lot of innovation in our programs. And, while it can be challenging to build rapport over online and phone sessions, the team has gotten creative. One of my favorite stories is about Tom, one of our therapists and how he built a bridge in a family via telehealth. Tom recently discovered that a father and daughter he was working with share Tom’s love of a famous American rock band. This was a transformative moment and a key to the healing process for the family, who had recently reunited after the daughter was returned to her father’s custody. Tom began incorporating music into their therapy sessions. Tom plays his guitar, alongside father and daughter, while they sing their favorite songs during the therapy session—all on Zoom.”



I also received a note from a psychologist noting that California mental health workers are volunteering to help the healthcare workers but they are getting surprisingly few calls. Apparently the same thing happened in New York after 9/11. There still seems to be stigma attached to just picking up the phone and asking. As this drags on, some of us will need this help and hopefully won’t avoid making that call…

And more than a third of Americans report depression:



A number of you indicated you had studied the poem Death Be Not Proud (by Donne) and/or the book by John Gunther, of the same name. These both are hard pieces to read for a teen or pre-teen, yet they were taught in public schools.

In the book, John Gunther recounts his son, Johnny Gunther’s, battle with an unrelenting brain tumor, while completing his studies and soldiering on. My brother in law Ed Weiss points out the high demands of his English teacher:

“Apropos of trigger warnings -- not sure if it was in the context of discussing Death Be Not Proud or other lessons, but in response to student recalcitrance, my scary tough no nonsense glasses on a chain 7th grade English teacher Mrs. Varen indulged none of it: "Don't fight it, learn it, for Heaven's sake....”

A friend from my sixth grade class, Parke Skelton, wrote that he recalled Mrs. Wade reading to us in Anaheim and the time of quiet reflection in dimmed lights in which we read it.

This is the “old fashioned education” I remember. It also got me thinking about the public school grade when one read such literature, to wit:

Anaheim (my school), 6th grade

Encino, 7th grade

Huntington Beach, never (though they had much better tans)

Seoul, I’m guessing third grade, between Calculus and intermediate violin

Brad Mindlin said reading about Death Be Not Proud reminded him of this great (unattributed) quote:

“Everyone dies—unfortunately, not everyone has lived.”

Truer words never spoken, Brad…



Howard Rodman sends these insightful observations from his friend Michael Mann, quoted in Vulture:

"I think that there is no playbook for what’s coming next. No matter how things go back together, life is not going to be the same. When was the last time the entire globe was living spontaneously? Where everybody was conscious of the circumstances affecting everybody on the planet, more or less at the same time? The answer is never. The closest you get is 1968, with the massive upheavals going on — whether they were in Prague, or Mexico City, Chicago at the Democratic Convention, Paris in May and June, London on October 27 outside the U.S. Embassy — because of global politics, the youth revolution, the anti-war movement. There was a sense of unified awareness. The difference right now is that it’s all happening in real time. It’s like a science-fiction movie, you know, where there’s a threat to the Planet Vega! You get to Planet Vega, and everybody there is all tuned in to the same channel simultaneously. Well, that’s us now; we’re all on the same channel simultaneously. Everybody all over the planet, whether they’re in Mozambique or Thailand or Taiwan or Detroit, is dealing with the same thing simultaneously and they’re doing it all in real time and everything is totally interconnected. "



Much has been written about how people judge the rooms and décor from which others are on Zoom calls or are being interviewed on TV. Some have gone so far as to magnify scenes with bookshelves in the background to see what others are reading. This guy seemed totally unconcerned with what people were thinking, taking a call with CNN from his bed…

Have a great day,


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