‘What to do with the time that is given us’ | Inquirer Business

‘What to do with the time that is given us’

Our barangay has confirmed its first COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease) case,” says reader J. Aragones. “How can my family and I prepare ourselves mentally? We are anxious.”

So are we all. Anxiety is a natural response to the unpredictable, so first gain some control. Sift fact from myth at the World Health Organization site. Heed our Department of Health advisories. Inquire about disinfection, food and transport procedures from your barangay.

Bad news can impair mental health, so refrain from perusing fake news or bashing public officials even if deserving. Rants can relieve distress only temporarily, so focus on the positive.


Visit informative sites such as Science Magazine or ScienceDaily—I prefer to follow virus research updates rather than global mortality rates that we have little control over.


Even in pre-COVID-19 times, mental health worsens when we think only of ourselves. For us lucky enough to stay home, let us dwell not on the many government inadequacies, but on the numerous acts of generosity of Filipinos.

Let us give more food, money, gear, transport, accommodation to doctors, nurses, other front-liners, the poor and those directly helping them.

Aside from online learning with students and group chats with family businesses, I am helping my mentor National Scientist Fr. Bienvenido Nebres put together his various writings.

I was struck by his homily for prospective priests in 2002, when he quoted an exchange between the wizard Gandalf and the hobbit Frodo in The Lord of the Rings: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” Frodo says. “So do I,” Gandalf says, “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 … given us.”

In another passage, Frodo asks, “Why was I chosen?” Gandalf replies, “Such … cannot be answered. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and wits as you have.”

The plague is upon us; let us use strength, wits and courage.


Shakespeare reputedly wrote King Lear while in quarantine as pestilence ravaged London in the 1600s.

During the 1565 bubonic plague, in line with social distancing measures, the 24-year-old Isaac Newton had to leave Cambridge and return home, whereupon he embarked on “a year of wonders.”

Foundation for Economic Education fellow Kerry McDonald says: “Away from university life and unbounded by curriculum constraints and professor’s whims, Newton dove into discovery.”

The Washington Post [says]: ‘Without his professors to guide him, Newton … thrived.’ At home, he built bookshelves and created [an ]… office … filling a blank notebook with his ideas and calculations. Absent the [typical] distractions … creativity flourished … He discovered differential and integral calculus, formulated a theory of universal gravitation … explored optics, experimenting with prisms and investigating light. Biographer James Gleick writes: ‘The plague year was his transfiguration. Solitary and almost incommunicado, he became the world’s paramount mathematician.’”

In 2017, my son Scott and his friend Ethan wrote the graphic novel Doorkeeper, about a being who travels through Philippine history and fantasy, which became part of CNN Philippines’ top 10 comics of the year. They say, “We need stories more than ever. We need hope more than ever. In the words of the inimitable Toni Morrison: ‘This is precisely the time when [we] go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.’”

Scott, Ethan and Summit Publishing have placed Doorkeeper online for free, forever. It has garnered more than 1,000 hits so far. Go to www.facebook.com/DoorkeeperGraphicNovel/posts/2473126992789316

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Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at www.lazada.com.ph or call National’s Jennie Garcia at 0915-421-2276. Contact the author at [email protected].

TAGS: anxiety, COVID-19 new coronavirus disease, Family

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