Psalm 131 & Covid-19, President Trump, and Domamine

I should probably write that I may not be following well what I am thinking about. I am not a doctor, neurologist, theologian. I think of myself as having a gift in seeing things as systems. But metacognition is limited at best. And, systems dynamics basically will easily show that all systems are closed systems approximations that are hopeful representations of open systems *1

So, I may be full of shit.

Psalm 131 became a favorite psalm because of the phrase “Nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.” Many things are too difficult for me. Covid-19 and its changes within the health, and economic systems, is way too difficult for me. (Though the translation, makes me wonder, there is a footnote that what is translated difficult could also be translated marvelous.)

I will let you drink it in first.


A Song of Ascents, of David.
O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rest against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.


Ahh! “Like a weaned child rest against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.”

So, Dr. Brene Brown, in her book “Rising Strong” talks about the stories that we tell ourselves. My understanding is that she says that we all get a tiny boost of dopamine when we complete a thought. Dopamine is a ”feel-good” chemical produced by the brain.  So we race to conclusions.  It is also what draws us to conspiracy theories.

Right now, about 5 weeks into stay home orders, I have to admit that I want answers. Many people have wanted answers for quite a while. No one likes to feel their way along, but we are. At first, I naively thought that “common adversity will unite us”. You see, I was really sick of all the name-calling, and bickering that had characterized politics of the United States. But it didn’t. People who could see nothing right in what Pres. Trump did continued to see nothing right. And people who could see nothing wrong with what Pres. Trump did, continued to see nothing wrong.

One of the most controversial things, in the last few days, is President Trump musing on the effectiveness of using disinfectants and light, or UV light to knock the coronavirus out in minutes. The actual statement was “I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets on the lungs and it does a tremendous number, so it will be interesting to check that. So … you’re going to have to use medical doctors. But it sounds, it sounds interesting to me. So we’ll see.”

I would see that as thinking out loud, by someone who is not a doctor. But media that have made their money off of criticizing his actions said that it was irresponsible, and dangerous, and …

So what was he doing? He was trying to complete the narrative. He, like all of us, is desperate for an answer. If we can only complete one narrative this year, most of us would like it to be how to quickly kill the coronavirus, in people, once infected. And if we could do it in a minute, we might just elevate it to the one narrative for the decade. He did pose things as questions, and suggested investigations. He may have been overconfident of his understanding.

Which brings me to that being a common failing. In the Harvard business review article “3 Ways to Improve Your Decision Making” *2 by Walter Frick, January 22, 2018, we learn

Rule #1: Be less certain.

Nobel-prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has said that overconfidence is the bias he’d eliminate first if he had a magic wand. It’s ubiquitous, particularly among menthe wealthy, and even experts. Overconfidence is not a universal phenomenon — it depends on factors including culture and personality — but the chances are good that you’re more confident about each step of the decision-making process than you ought to be.

So, the first rule of decision making is to just be less certain.”

So, I understand the response that someone is actually going to try this. You shouldn’t have said it. Sadly, this is probably true. Someone, will take this untested statement, which contains “you’re going to have to use medical doctors.” in it, and the body language (if they see the video) of turning to the adviser who is a doctor, and rush to complete their narrative, and do something harmful with a disinfectant.

I won’t completely leave it there, because, we use controlled dosages of various toxins that can benefit us, but would kill smaller / more fragile life forms. An example is Warfarin. It is used to thin the blood. It is also used as rat poison. Different dosages. Different sizes of bodies. Different capacities to eliminate the toxin. This isn’t completely black and white. But, no, I will not say that President Trump’s “could we” type questions have any merit whatsoever until I see scientists, and toxicologists, and doctors all produce the appropriate studies.

So where are we spiritually. I think that there are two things. First, I don’t know if David wrote Psalm 131 before or after he became king. I would imagine it would be incredibly difficult to write that as a leader, especially of a nation. But it is something that rulers of nations definitely need to meditate on. And it is something that we can include in our prayers for our leaders.

The second thing, for people like us, is to realize that one of the things that is too difficult for us is to judge our leaders. It doesn’t mean that we don’t discern foolishness, arrogance, deceitfulness and other undesirable qualities in our leaders.  We need to do that, for all who elect their leaders. But even there it is difficult, with the quality of our current media, and their profit motive focus. We need God’s help to discern. And we need the judging left to Him.

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says “don’t place a period, where God has placed comma”. That is just one way for me to be lesser certain.

What I believe you with, is my hazy recollection of a cartoon that really hit my funny bone. Unfortunately I cannot find the cartoon to give the creator appropriate credit. But I will gladly update this post, if at all possible, should the creator come forth.

The cartoon described the change in who is considered an expert.

  • In the 1960s, it was a person with a PhD, and numerous peer-reviewed journal articles to their credit.
  • In the 1970s, it was a person with a PhD in a relevant field.
  • In the 1980s, it was a person with a PhD.
  • In the 1990s, it was a person doing graduate work in the field.
  • In the 2000s, it was a person who had written articles on similar topics.
  • In the 2010s, it was a person who wrote something on Facebook.

Before we close a narrative, and get our dopamine hit, it would be good to know which kind of effort we are dealing with. It would also be good to know if we are turning to an expert, because we want to believe ourselves to be great, by involving ourselves in great matters (in which case we should look to see if our hearts are proud and our eyes haughty.)