Ebola, Courage, Fear, and the Ethic of Reverence for Life

September 19, 2014

Do our fears prevent us from embracing a reverence of life -- all life -- as Dr. Albert Schweitzer advocated a century ago?

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE NEWS

When I perused the headlines in today's New York Times, so many of the diverse stories seemed to center on values--often conflicting values at that, of one kind or another: ISIS. . . politics. . .  Ebola. . . women. . .  the health care act, and the suspended punishment of the Iranian "Happy" dancers, among them. On the morning TV news there was live coverage of those who have been waiting up to 2 days to get the new Apple i-phone. Many of these values have understandably, then, been the focus of the Psychiatric Views on the News over the past 10 days.

In a comment to one of these mini-blogs, the one on Ebola, "Tom" asked for a discussion on the meaning of courage, fear, and ethics. I tried to provide an initial answer from a psychiatric perspective, but went on to continue to think of whether there could be a unifying value for rallying people around the world. Perhaps the Ebola crisis suggests the answer.

If we recall the work of the courageous medical missionary, Dr Albert Schweitzer, who was so much in the news about a century ago, the answer would be a "Reverence for Life." Life here includes not only people, but animals and all living things. Perhaps our fears have prevented more of an embrace of this value.

I agree with Dr. Schweitzer. Do you?