Recording records can place strikeouts and Covid-19 cases/deaths on the same plane. Significance, here, is quantity. Would one less death change anything? 1,000? Would one more strikeout add to Nolan Ryan’s prestigious 839 lead in the record books?

Records are made of single units, each related to all and a gateway to one more.

Each time a record is claimed, it enters the realm of debate and controversy. Is 100,000 Covid-19 deaths a good thing for those claiming to have mitigated it from being twice, three, or five times worse? Is 100,000 what finally nudges someone to begin acting as though, “Too many people have died!”? (Of course, this involves a determination of who it is that is dying—them, OK; mine, Battle-Stations!)

There may be something to say for a distinction drawn between a skillful player and seeming fate tapping some tiny percentage of cases to be fatal. Would we be better off is only 50,000 died while another 50,000 were significantly wounded for the rest of their days? Would a more skillful approach in Covid’s early days have made the difference models suggest? These questions begin to strike at the heart of a culture’s ethos.

We had plenty of epidemiological warnings and accumulated best practices available to us for this pandemic. However, contrary to our self-aggrandizing biological classification, humans are not, as a group, sapiential. Mob mentality is all too frequent a response, clan feuds regularly erupt, and few willingly give up a personal perk, much less gift it to another.

We know many things and can learn answers to a standardized test. We struggle when dealing with what we don’t know or a needed response to a novel situation. There isn’t a reliable curriculum for empathy. It can be modeled, but the roadblocks of economic cost and community derision are considerable in a culture based on a zero-sum approach to advancement and success. Empathy does get taken advantage of.

There is no record for the most empathetic person, nor will there be one. Nonetheless, you may yet risk being kinder.

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