It‘s a bit ironic to be reading Factfulness at a time of a global crisis when factual information is necessary and disinformation is rife. Factfulness’ late author Hans Rosling was trying to battle the perception that the world is falling apart using simple, readily available data, and maybe right now that battle seems a bit naive.
But one of the side effects of reading Factfulness is discovering the ability to take comfort in hard facts. As intense as the spread of COVID-19 seems, looking at the raw numbers indicate to me that the recovery rate is high.
I’m not kidding myself into believing that those numbers are perfect. For example, the number of cases may be artificially low based on how many people are getting properly tested and how (or even if) governments are reporting their stats.
And I’m not kidding myself that the spread of COVID-19 won’t get worse. It probably will, which is why my home state of Maryland has closed schools and libraries. But while living in a time when people are panicking because they’re not finding accurate information and when some leaders dawdle as some leaders act, the best thing I can do is be informed by reliable sources and take precautions, both with my physical health and my mental health.
So I will close this out with two quotes. They are keeping me as grounded as I can get during a tough stretch of time.
People often call me an optimist, because I show them the enormous progress they didn’t know about. That makes me angry. I’m not an optimist. That makes me sound naïve. I’m a very serious “possibilist.” That’s something I made up. It means someone who neither hopes without reason, nor fears without reason, someone who constantly resists the overdramatic worldview.
Hans Rosling on page 69 of Factfulness
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien on page 82 of The Fellowship of the Rings
(Ballantine Books edition, 1986 printing)
(To be fair, the rest of Gandalf’s quote isn’t as inspiring as that, so maybe just stick to the version from the movie.)