Selfish vs. Unselfish Epidemiology

Certain key patterns of thought and behavior mark out those who think with the mind of Christ vs. those who think with the mind of the flesh, but the core and key difference is simply this: do you think first of other people or of yourself? If the former, then you are disposed to listen to the Spirit. If the latter, then you are immature at best and, if you do not repent, you are on the road to pathological narcissism, which is another name for hell.

So, for instance, when you contemplate a mask, is your first thought, “Why do I have to wear this? It doesn’t guarantee I won’t get the virus?” or “This will help reduce the chance that I exhale any virus I might be carrying to my vulnerable neighbor, so I’m happy to do it, even though it’s a bit of a nuisance.” If the former, you are thinking first (and usually only) of yourself. My risk. My inconvenience. If you give that impulse its head, soon you start imagining that you are oppressed, that you are the star in a drama of oppression and rebellion starring your precious as a freedom fighter. Your gigantic ego swells to blot out all else and your self-pity slaps a yellow star on your own chest as you insult the memory of actual victims of real oppression even as you go around coughing in the faces of the vulnerable while shouting into Youtube selfie video and acting like a buffoon.

Or consider how you analyze things like vaccines and their role on preventing COVID transmission:

A person who thinks with the mind of Christ asks first, “Even if I cannot completely prevent transmission of a deadly virus to the vulnerable, can I at least do something?”

A person who cares only about themselves and their own convenience says, “I don’t want to lift a finger for somebody else, so I will tell myself that if vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing transmission, then there is no point in my being bothered to think somebody else, because any lame excuse will do to rationalize my not even trying.”

For, in point of fact, vaccines do reduce the chance of infection and dramatically shorten the amount of time the infected shed viruses for somebody else to catch. So being vaxed is not just good for you, but for your vulnerable neighbor. And the bigger the population of vaxed people, the harder it is for the virus to spread.

What is evident in all this is that before the vaccine can work in the way it is intended, just as before the vaccines of the Spirit called “sacraments” and “faith” can work, it is necessary for us to have the proper disposition to receive them. All the free vaccines in the world will not help the person who refuses to accept them and all the grace in the world is useless to the person committed to forever thinking always and only of himself first. The anti-vax crisis in this country is, first and foremost, a spiritual illness born of a heart that thinks first and foremost “Me! Me! Me!” when the Spirit is challenging us to put others first.


9 Responses

  1. > “This will help reduce the chance that I exhale any virus I might be carrying to my vulnerable neighbor, so I’m happy to do it, even though it’s a bit of a nuisance.”

    Very much so. I wear glasses, so wearing a mask makes my glasses foggy, which in turn prevents me from being able to see anything.

    When I was ten or eleven, I had some unstoppable nosebleed (a bad reaction to some medicine, details are very sketchy). I had to have my nose clogged for three weeks and I needed to breathe through my mouth.

    It then took me over twenty years to start breathing through my nose again. I had panic attacks when breathing through my nose because it felt like I was suffocating. It was liberating when I could finally breathe through my nose.

    And with the pandemic, I have to breathe through the mouth again. Regardless of what mask I wear, if I breathe through the nose, my glasses get fogged up. If I set up the mask “just right”, breathing through the mouth limits that to a minimum.

    I could wear contact lenses, but it turns out glasses help a lot in containing covid spread because one of the most easily accessible vectors of transmission are eyes which can get infected with respiratory ejecta. Wearing glasses limits exposure for me, and in turn, limits my risk towards others.

    I could wear an anti-smog (anti-dust) mask. It would help me. But anti-smog masks filter incoming air and eject exhaled air unfiltered, so they actually defeat the whole purpose of wearing a mask. And I wear a mask to help others, not myself.

    The reason why I’m saying this is that I talked to some people who were unconvinced that masks help, not sure about getting vaccinated, and this convinced them that yes, it takes some personal sacrifice. But others are enduring it, too.


    Here is an excellent article that does agree with your take Mark, and I do see the points he makes as very reasonable, but I think he gives people like me who say its time to move on completely a much more charitable reading than selfish vs unselfish, because I firmly believe we should end everything now, but I want to do it for completely unselfish reasons, which are my kids and the kids I coach, all of this was always a stop gap, because a society can never make a trade of the mental health of its youngest members for its oldest and most vulnerable, I would suspect that most older vulnerable members of our society wouldn’t even want that trade. My bigger problem with your article is how you’ve tried to simplify everyones motives, I certainly don’t do that to you, but I could, I’m convinced that closing schools as an example will go down as a grave moral crime in years to come as we see the fall out of loss of learning, loneliness, etc, but I never do that, I know that your trying as hard as anyone to do the right thing, good people can disagree about important things.

    1. This is the policy vs. responsibility debate. Policy that would reopen everything but still mandate masks would be disastrous because there would still be people who refuse to wear masks.

      Literally everything that was necessary to stop covid was responsibility: wear masks, don’t go out unless absolutely necessary, maintain distance, if feeling unwell, avoid all contact and get tested as soon as possible. Vaccinate as soon as you can unless you have valid medical reasons not to.

      Adhering to these simple points would have stopped covid two years ago and this discussion would never be necessary.

      The problem is that people do not assume any personal responsibility for stopping the spread and are actively protesting and contesting policy regardless of whether it is sensible or extreme.

  3. I think I’m making a similar point, I was 100% in your camp last year, and even last summer, but I’ve seen enough suffering from kids, it can’t continue much longer, thankfully I don’t think it will, my prediction is Biden ends everything on March 1st state of the Union, and will be declared a hero for doing so

  4. At the end of the day, I would say it is fair to concede that we (humanity) failed the test in the big picture. We never approached the virus as a global problem. We focused on our own return to normalcy. How many Americans died yesterday due to Omicron? My husband read me a number that was over 3000. The takeaway will be that we acted like “America for Americans!” forgetting about people across our borders. Now it will be with us forever.

    Catholics used to mortify themselves in all kinds of little ways that didn’t readily make sense to onlookers. We understood the spiritual dimension of skipping a meal, turning off the AC, or eating an unappealing dish that is served to us. We offered it up.

    As I type this, my husband is watching a piece on Sarah Palin dining out in NY while she is COVID positive. What point is she trying to make?

    The world has gone mad.

    1. My point would not be that the world has gone mad. It has been mad all the time but Covid is bringing to the surface many types of madness we were not sufficiently aware of before!

  5. Marthe, I have missed you!

    You are right. It is coming to the surface in a way that we haven’t seen before. Unnerving.

  6. Self attachment. The Saints first lesson is dying to one’s self. However, this comes by grace of the Sacraments.

    The Church has the remedy to ailments, in the Liturgy, wherefore, the Sacraments come to be Christ Present in them.

    A Penitent soul examines. In their work and labor, and ordinary tasks set out for the day, what absence of charity did they exhibit? What did they fail to do?

    When we’re attune to the world, and told to wear masks, and receive a vaccine, what manner of virtue in the faith and in the Church do we exhibit?

    You discern both with your doctor, pray, and ask Christ in the Blessed Sacrament for guidance, and even the help of the Saints. Definitely ask Our Lady.

    I received my vaccine, because my Grandma had to receive hers. I would go with my Grandma so she is not alone.

    I wear a mask, and she wears a mask.

    Is it inconvenient? Yes. But so is wearing a hairshirt as Saint Thomas More wore. The works of suffering can be a Penitent offering.

    What now?

    Well, I got a custom made re-usable triple filtered mask with art work. When you wear a mask, consider a properly filtered re-usable mask where you can have art work as Rembrandt’s Storm in Galilee, or the Crucifix, or the Pieta, or an Unborn Child, or Our Lady of Guadalupe, etc.

    If people are standing six feet apart, and turn looking around, looking to see your mask. Well, there you have it: Evangelization!

    Take the Crown out of covid and become the victor.

    Fight the infection of selfishness. Vaccinate with charity. Bring something in the culture of death. Bring life, hope, and a miracle.

    Be a Saint!

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