This is not my usual column because of the unprecedented times we are currently living in. There is religious content and spirituality that some may feel is not necessary in this type of magazine, and the opinions expressed in here are those of the author and not of the CSEG.
“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
- Winston Churchill, June 1940
It was not easy being Churchill because, in his own words, he was battling a black dog, which some believe meant he suffered from depression.
This speech was given after the Battle of Dunkirk, which occurred less than a month after Churchill became Prime Minister. This was a huge defeat, and a massive evacuation was launched which saw 338,226 men escaping (198,229 were British and 139,997 were French, Polish, and Belgian troops, together with a small number of Dutch soldiers.) aboard 861 vessels, of which 243 were sunk (Wikipedia, 2020a). The vessels that were used were 39 British Royal Navy destroyers, 4 Royal Canadian Navy destroyers, at least 3 French destroyers, and a flotilla of private vessels such as fishing boats pleasure cruisers, and commercial vessels such as ferries, including a number from as far away as the Isle of Man and Glasgow (Wikipedia, 2020b).
It is amazing what can we do if we work together, and this evacuation truly was an example of that.
I doubt that Churchill knew how everything was going to turn out, but he could never show that. There were moments, as in this speech, when he probably wondered if they would really defeat the Germans.
Churchill had to make some truly difficult decisions as Prime Minister of Britain during the war. He decided to send 6100 men, mostly Canadians from units like The Calgary Highlanders and The Calgary Regiment (Tank), on a raid to Dieppe, ostensibly as an attempt to test new equipment and gain experience and knowledge necessary for the planning of a major amphibious assault (Veteran Affairs Canada, 2005). The subsequent release of top-secret documents showed that it was actually a “pinch raid” to steal or pinch an Enigma machine so people like Alan Turing could break the German codes (O’keefe, 2017). Turing later succeeded in doing this (Watson, 2012).
Churchill was also a part of the decision to not save convoys with this information so that the Germans would not know that the British had broken their code.
These were all hard decisions, but they are decisions that cost a few lives so many could be saved, and so the war could be won sooner.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
- Mother Teresa (Taken from a speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress).
Today as we self-isolate, many are feeling lonely, and these words describe how many of us are feeling these days: unwanted, unloved, and uncared for.
It is extremely hard to feel loved in this world, especially for those who have been let go from their company, or who have contracted Covid-19. Many of us are feeling unloved and really do not know how to say it.
Sometimes it is good to reach out to those who feel alone and let them know they matter. There are many suffering from loneliness who feel abandoned.
Mother Teresa, who spoke these words, represents to Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists holiness and compassion. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, won the Nobel Peace Prize, and was a friend to everyone, from destitute leprosy victims to Pope John Paul II (Metaxas, 2015).
Mother Teresa bathed the untouchables (Lepers, TB, HIV positive) just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Mother Teresa exemplified the words in the Bible by giving food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty; she clothed the naked, took in the lonely, visited the sick, and visited those in prison (Metaxas, 2015).
Yet this very inspirational person suffered from a decades-long and disabling depression, and though she did so many great things as a simple nun, the depression took the possibility of feeling close to God away from her (Graham, 2016).
Martin Luther King
“…We are going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands. And so I can sing anew, ‘We shall overcome’ …”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1966
Whenever we think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we think of his words of hope that we will overcome racial inequality. These words, paraphrasing Dr. King, were for all of God’s children all over this world, be they black or white or Asian, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, or atheists (King, 1966).
These are words of hope, and though he spoke of racial equality when he spoke these words, we can apply to them to all of us overcoming Covid-19 together.
We will overcome!!!
The man who inspired so much hope, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., had multiple periods of severe depression and twice made suicide attempts as a child (Ghaemi, 2012).
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers the fear.”
- Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison (almost a third of his life), split between Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison, and Victor Verster Prison, and later became President of South Africa. Despite having been in prison, he always emphasized reconciliation between the country's racial groups (Wikipedia, 2020c). Could you imagine being imprisoned so long and then forgiving and negotiating transfer of power with one’s jailors?
Right now, with everything that is going on, so much stress, so many worried, we need to learn to forgive. Sometimes we hear people talk about this as being a punishment for the way we have lived our lives, but it is not. Terrible things can happen because people choose to do terrible things or the wrong things, but from terrible things come good things and the ability to heal. If we look at all the terrible things that happen, they are followed by the selfless actions of others.
We see that already with car manufacturers and vacuum makers trying to build ventilators; seamstresses making masks and scrubs; and distillers making hand sanitizers.
With that in mind, we can begin to realize that with forgiveness we are forgiving a person because they made a mistake. We all make mistakes in our lives; we do not condone, but forgive, what they did.
The issue is that our mind tends to fixate on what they have done, and we dream how we are going to get revenge; but these poisonous thoughts saturate our minds and prevent us from feeling happiness and joy. When we forgive, we let go; forgiving takes multiple attempts, and once that negativity is gone, a new world opens up for us.
We need to realize that something bad can be turned into something good, such as poison being used for medicine. Sometimes with hate we do not see that, but some mothers who have forgiven their children’s murderers and even helped them to become better people do see that.
Sometimes it is hard for us to imagine a superior being loving something that we hate, but that being loves all of us equally unconditionally. It is hard because we want to judge so much, but it is not our place to judge, but rather to forgive and heal.
Life is too short to hold onto past hurts and relive them in our minds; there are so many amazing things happening around us each day that can push all that negativity out.
We read examples of amazing acts of forgiveness all the time, such as the Amish grandfather of one of the girls who was killed in a school shooting expressing forgiveness toward the killer. On the same day Amish neighbors visited the murderer’s family to comfort them in their sorrow and pain.
By forgiving we release negative energy and allow positive energy to come into our lives so that we can move forward and be better.
Already we see the willingness to blame and hate, but we need to move past that and realize how COVID-19 came to be is not as important as treating those affected by it.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt; she was known as the ugly ducking and was not known for her looks. She was married to Franklin, her fifth cousin (Wikipedia, 2020d).
When we think of First Ladies and their position, Eleanor Roosevelt defined it. Eleanor was also the United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952, and by the time of her death she was one of the most esteemed women in the world (Wikipedia, 2020d),
Eleanor suffered a lot in her childhood by losing her mother at 8 years old to diphtheria and her father at 10 because he drank himself to death. Because of this she suffered bouts of depression (Wikipedia, 2020d).
If you think of amazingly strong women, Eleanor Roosevelt comes quickly to mind. Being the First Lady of the United States, she opened doors and became a role model for many women.
We can learn from Eleanor Roosevelt because some say she had learned to accept life’s disappointments (Thomas, 2002).
The one thing we begin to realize is that in times of crisis, it is sometimes those who are quirky, odd, or who have gone through a lot who somehow show the greatest leadership. Even in the Bible we see that God did not chose the best, He chose the most unlikely for the job, and they tended to be the humblest (Soriano, 2019). Many ask what His criteria really were, but He choose people based on them being willing; it was that simple.
We can be chosen by being willing to do tasks that others do not want to do; it is not our intellect or our writing skills or charm, but our willingness to do the things that are asked of us; we need to have heart.
Many people on the frontlines of this disease are willing; all we need to do to help them in this battle is social distancing, going out just when we need to. If you are ill, be a superhero and quarantine and ask someone to get you the groceries. Are we willing to do this? Some doubt that they will get COVID-19 and they are not willing, and by being this way they put everyone that they love and those who love them at risk.
This is all about flattening the curve so that when it peaks, we have the resources to treat people, and we don’t have to make hard decisions on who will get treated and who will not be treated.
Acceptance – Serenity Prayer
Sometimes in life we just need to accept what is before us and ask for strength from whatever we believe in or meditate for the strength if you do not believe.
I always believe in the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
- Reinhold Neibuhr
What I cannot change right now is a lot, such as the current market for oil, unemployment, and an upcoming possible recession after COVID-19; but I can stay at home, not give up, keep on trying, and not let all that is happening affect me, uplifting myself through positive thoughts and meditation.
One day at a time
These days it is difficult. We seem to live one day at a time, but this is not the first time in my life I have had to live this way. For me, other such times were:
- The May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens, with a volcanic ash plume over Alberta.
- The 1990 eruption of Mount Redoubt Volcano and the ash cloud falling on Anchorage.
- A cancer scare when I was about 30 years old.
- Tropical storm Allison and seeing the I-10 as a river.
- 9/11 and all the confusion of that day and the days after.
- Hurricane Katrina and Rita, as well as Ike.
- Floods in Calgary of 2013.
But after each of these events the sun still shone in the sky the next day.
During these events it was like the earth stood still. I remember some poignant moments in my life where all I could was to wait for everything to happen. I knew it was coming, I watched the news, waiting; but there was absolutely nothing I could do.
I really do wish that I could say that tomorrow everything will be okay, but I cannot do that. I can tell you that the sun will shine the day after, but maybe, just maybe that is all we need to know: that there will be a tomorrow.
We have so much before us to deal with. Each day we see the news, we see the numbers increasing across the world. It is just not about Calgary or Alberta or Canada, but it is about the world. As I write this, over 121478 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the US and 6243 in Canada. The average mortality rate for this disease is 4%, but Italy’s mortality rate is 11%, and Canada and Germany are about 1%.
Canada’s curve is one of the flattest globally, which is good because the isolation, social distancing, closing of restaurant dining rooms, and so on make life very uncomfortable right now. But it is working.
Because of Covid-19 we have seen some bad things:
- Unprecedented layoffs in the airline industry, with more than 5000 at Air Canada and 6900 at West Jet.
- Stores closing and people being let go.
- The stock market shut down three times; the last time the stock market was shut down was 2008.
- A large decrease in the demand for oil and gas.
- The price of oil goes down and stocks in the oil industry plummet.
We have also seen some good things:
- Cleanup of the environment because of the lack of vehicles on the road.
- People and companies stepping up like they did in World War II. We are seeing distillers such as Labatt using their alcohol supply to churn out hand sanitizer.
- Dyson is going to make 10,000 ventilators, and GM has partnered with Ventec Life Systems to build them as well.
- We are seeing factories changing their output to make scrubs for the medical staff, face masks (Eddie Bauer), and others.
- We see doctors and nurses and those on the frontlines giving everything they have, and they are putting their families at risk as well.
- We see store clerks, cashiers, delivery people, and others doing essential work while facing their fears and doing the best they can do.
Just when we think that it looks like there will be “no tomorrow” we see our parliament passing a $107 billion COVID-19 aid package and the U.S. congress passing a $2 trillion bipartisan stimulus package.
In Canada all the political parties put aside their differences and passed the COVID-19 aid package, which is a rarity. In the U.S. we saw the same, with both the Democrats and the Republicans being able to put their past differences aside for the betterment of the country.
Plummet in oil price
Though more of this will be covered in the article “Oil below $20 USD per barrel – what caused this,” most of us in the oil industry were left dazed and confused. With this drop in the price of oil, there has been volatility in U.S. credit markets, including historic lows on Treasury yields (Ng, 2020).
Before this, some of the unconventional players were already in trouble because of lack of financial discipline due to unconventional plays having such a high depletion rate, requiring constant drilling to keep up reserves (Schulte, 2020).
As in 2014 to 2016, we will try to find efficiencies to lower our break-even points, which will involve geomodelling, machine learning, newer technologies, and different approaches which will minimize cost and maximize returns.
Unlike 2014 to 2016, we have an unprecedented drop in the demand for oil, with one-third of the world going through a lockdown, ships idle in ports, flights to other countries cancelled, and borders restricted. With all this, we are going to need all the oil-producing countries to come together so they can talk, they can argue, and then they can negotiate production cuts, because at the current moment the market is broken.
Why I believe
It being Easter, ironically a time of rebirth, I thought I would mention why I believe. I believe because with all the circumstances in my life I doubt I could have achieved everything I have done without help; so it is not me, but something else that drives me to do the things I do, write the papers I do, because the truth is that I am not that smart.
I believe that when we need innovation the most, when we need to develop technologies or create a new idea or philosophy, it comes from beyond us. We have had incredible people who have changed our entire world by their words, actions, or discoveries. Some of their thoughts were counter to contemporary thinking, and they needed the strength to push their ideas when many rejected them. I have in mind such as Galileo (heliocentric theory), Wegener (plate tectonics), Pasteur (no spontaneous generation), Semmelweis (washing hands), and Drew (banked blood), to name a few.
Not the Chief Editor Column you expected
This column may have disappointed some by its content; it may not have been what you wanted to read in the Recorder.
You are wondering why I am bringing in famous quotes, religion and spirituality into the discussion, but I wanted to do so because I do believe we need such things now more than ever, as we face this pandemic.
We need to begin to trust that the right things will happen so that fewer people will be infected by Covid-19 and that we will flatten the curve; that fewer people will be let go in the industry; and that we can adjust the price of oil despite an unprecedented drop in demand.
Many may feel this is not the place for these words. I am not a great writer, but as I write this I hope that I connect with you and show to you that:
- It is okay to be depressed; many great people have been in stressful times.
- We can let go of trying to control everything, can accept what we cannot control, and can have the courage to change what we can control.
- We can trust that the right things are happening and trust our leaders.
- We can help the people on the frontlines by staying on the couch, at home and safe.
- We should realize no matter what happens in the world, tomorrow the sun will always shine.
- Panic is extreme anxiety that creates tunnel vision and does not solve problems. In Offshore Survival Training, learning to escape a helicopter that has crashed, we are taught to stop and count to three before we begin to do anything, so we know what we are going to do. When we feel that panic, let’s stop and count to three.
References / Bibliography
Ghaemi, N., 2012, Martin Luther King: Depressed and Creatively Maladjusted. Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/mood-swings/201201/martin-luther-king-depressed-and-creatively-maladjusted
Graham, G., 2016, Unwholly bound: Mother Teresa’s battles with depression. Oxford University Press's Academic Insights for the Thinking World, https://blog.oup.com/2016/04/mother-teresa-depression/
Metaxas, E., 2015, The secret of Mother Teresa's greatness. Fox News, https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/the-secret-of-mother-teresas-greatness
O’Keefe, D., 2017, Vindicating ‘Ham’ Roberts, 75 years after Dieppe. MacLean’s Magazine, https://www.macleans.ca/dieppe-75-years-later/
Shapiro, F. R., 2014, Who Wrote the Serenity Prayer?. The Chronicle Review, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Who-Wrote-the-Serenity-Prayer-/146159
Smith, S. A., 2014, What Can Winston Churchill Teach Us About Depression? www.SethAdamSmith.com, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-can-winston-churchil_b_6219600?guccounter=1
Soriano, J., 2019, Why Does God Choose The Most Unlikely People For The Job? The Catholic Refuge, https://medium.com/the-catholic-refuge/why-does-god-choose-the-most-unlikely-people-for-the-job-bf1514730673
Thomas, H., 2002, Eleanor Roosevelt, perfect role model. Hearst Newspapers, https://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Eleanor-Roosevelt-perfect-role-model-1090839.php
Veteran Affairs Canada, 2005, The 1942 Dieppe Raid. Veteran Affairs Canada, https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/second-world-war/1942-dieppe-raid
Watson,I., 2012, How Alan Turing Invented the Computer Age. Scientific American, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/how-alan-turing-invented-the-computer-age/
Wikipedia, 2020a, Battle of Dunkirk. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Dunkirk
Wikipedia, 2020b, Dunkirk evacuation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkirk_evacuation
Wikipedia, 2020c, Nelson Mandela. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Mandela
Wikipedia, 2020d, Eleanor Roosevelt. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_Roosevelt