According to author David T. Wolf (b. 1943), “Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows.”

I couldn’t agree more. As I’ve written more than once in this space, I believe our opinions are related directly to our experiences. We can have all kinds of ideas and conjectures about this and that – unless and until we’re affected personally. Then it’s a whole new ballgame.

For example, in the early 2000s, we might have been ambivalent toward smoking bans in public places until someone we knew died of lung cancer from secondhand smoke. In 2003, Wyoming drivers became “ticketable” for not wearing seatbelts. What seemed like a violation of civil liberties for some is a far cry from that for others – especially when someone we love survived a car accident because he wore a seatbelt.

Living near Yellowstone also provides several cases in point. Take wolves for instance: For some, wolves in the Park are symbolic of nature and freedom. But for area ranchers losing livestock to wolf kills or hunters and outfitters who witness herds dwindling because of wolf predation, the wolf is a real danger.

And since 2014, Yellowstone has limited the amount of over-the-snow traffic. Proponents speculate that without the myriad of snow machines, the Park is cleaner, quieter and safer for wildlife. For these folks, the best way to traverse Yellowstone in winter is without a motor, basically excluding anyone who is unable to experience it under their own power. Certainly, snow coaches are an option, but at $300-plus per person per day, seeing Yellowstone in winter becomes a proposition for the physically and-or fiscally fit. The rest of us will have to pass.

Issues have far more angles when we view them from someone else’s shoes. Now they’re personal. When I talk to an individual about her experience, I have a new appreciation for the complexities of a given outlook. For the worker who is just one of the 36 million filing jobless claims, it’s time for businesses to reopen and not fear the coronavirus.

Business owners whose revenue plummeted in the last two months are not only eager to re-open but face serious shortfalls – even bankruptcy – if they don’t.

Some argue that the survival rate of COVID-19 is so high, that it seems we’re going overboard with restrictions. In other words, even if we do contract the illness, we’re likely to recover fully. Besides, can scientists and physicians really be trusted anyway? After all, do we not seek a second opinion with our own diagnoses?

Seventeenth-century poet Samuel Butler (1613-1680), wrote “A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog; but he that is blind in his understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as the best, and scorns a guide.”

However, for the one prone to asthma or COPD (or other health issues), there is a real fear of contracting COVID-19. In their world, the masks, social distancing and closures are well worth the inconvenience.

Clearly, we humans are a complicated lot. Nothing about us or our situations have easy answers. I think it behooves us all to keep that in mind.

I will if you will.

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