Conquering COVID Part 2.2:
“This pandemic is kind of like the movie
(aka three things we should be learning or should have learned
from this Tom Hanks classic)
July 15, 2020
by Mark A. Moyad, MD, MPH
“I am concerned, of course, but I am also incredibly optimistic.”
Did you ever see the movie
Cast Away with Tom Hanks? If you didn’t then you probably need to watch this 143-minute 20-year old movie ASAP and then come back to this column in order to understand all the serious and comical commentary. Anyhow, Tom Hanks (aka “Chuck Noland” character in the movie…only seen it 11 times…actually 11.43 times - fell asleep one time…getting older) works for FedEx and, unfortunately, due to a plane crash he ends up on a deserted island (wait…it really does get better). The good news is that (spoiler alert!) he not only survives, but eventually, after several years, gets rescued and you know the rest of the story. Today, it would probably be unlikely to get stuck on a deserted island for a long time because I am sure there is an App or website for that (helpimstuckonanisland.com, etc.) Anyhow, back to the movie...
Chuck Noland (aka Tom Hanks) has to learn how to survive on this island without modern day conveniences long before he is ultimately rescued. There are several parts of the movie that strike me today more than any other point in a long time. In fact, there are three parts of the movie that really hit me hard, like a volleyball to the cranium (get it?…another
Cast Away reference). Three things occur on the island and/or afterward that are similar to what has and is happening to us during this pandemic. Let us quickly review these observations and how they apply to this COVID column.
1.Simple pithy things have meaning and silly superficial things do not.
In the movie, Chuck is obsessed with being on time, which is part of his job, but when he ends up on the island, he loses that obsession because life takes on a totally different meaning - his ability to protect himself from the elements and many other previously unanticipated survival skills. I have found it interesting during this pandemic how many things I never gave much mind to, or cared about, that I now pay more attention to and appreciate. For example, mundane things like toilet paper or paper towels, or more critical prevention items such as hand sanitizer or wearing a mask have more meaning than ever before in my life. Reading a good book or article, or hearing about a good deed, or talking to a good friend also has more meaning than ever before. Our health, or simply feeling pretty good when I wake up every morning has more meaning. Other items, including those previously perceived as little things have amplified importance now. One of my kids (aka adult) sent me a wooden foot massager the other day that probably cost little-to-nothing. A wooden, roll your aching foot over a mobile device, cheap massager that looked like something I could build with my eyes closed in a few minutes, even if I had been drinking a few too many beers. Normally I would appreciate this gift but, during the pandemic, I worship and adore this gift simply because he is so young, and he thought of me, and I have never been so appreciative of his kindness and grace during a time when we are all hungry for it. We are gravitating more toward what counts or what makes a difference, and I even embrace self-reflection because there is beauty in all of this. I have spent my entire career traveling and, for the first time in over 25+ years, I am grounded, and I have not missed it. In fact, what I cherish more than ever is getting up very early in the morning with my wife and sitting outside with her drinking coffee, and listening to birds singing and simply conversing with each other, or even chipmunks walking near my feet and looking at me as if to say, “Come on man! It actually took a pandemic to get you to appreciate us over here?" Yes.