This too shall pass. I hope.

Rana puts her finger on the jittery anxiety that’s been in the air this week. It’s not just Hurricane Katrina, the unnerving reports about bird flu, the price of gas and the thought of how people are going to cope with it, the surreality of most of the news out of Washington; it’s everything all at once.

When I remind myself that things were demonstrably much worse in, e.g., the fourteenth century, and that people are always predicting the end of civilization as we know it, and that the apocalypse has never yet shown up when predicted, and that any historian worth his or her salt can tell you that things have always gone badly and people have always muddled through somehow — that’s reassuring, sort of. I think of how everyone freaked out over Y2K, and how I spent New Year’s Eve 1999 with my friend in New York, and how we were sitting in a bar when midnight struck, the power didn’t go out, planes didn’t fall from the sky, and the world didn’t plunge into chaos. I remind myself that it’s probably human nature to panic and, in the process, to seek out other panicky people and panic some more.

And yet: that disaster that didn’t happen was just a potential disaster. It didn’t actually wreck the Gulf Coast, kill poultry in Asia, make the cost of fuel go through the roof, or leave the poor behind to drown.

I fear for us all, sometimes. There seems like so little that any one person can do, though there are always ways to help. Right now I’m concentrating on remembering the way my dad used to say "This too shall pass."

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