As a result of contagion and infection, people are clearly at risk of losing their lives, some more than others. But we’re all at risk of losing something else: our humanity. We’re already seeing militant protests for and against quarantining, business closures, and more. We’ve already created a new phenomenon: mask shaming.

What the hell are we doing?

As a late-blooming college student, I was a good 10 or more years older than most of the other students in my classes. In one class, we were required to read Frankenstein. One day, the professor — also named Mark and a mere six months older than yours truly — asked why we considered Victor’s creature to be a monster. My first thought was that I was likely to be the only one in the room familiar with Boris Karloff’s portrayals of the monster. As I was musing about that, other students were answering: “Because he’s ugly.” “Because he’s made of spare parts.” “Because he’s murderous.” And on it went.

The professor said, “The reason we consider Victor’s creature to be a monster is that he has — and has no possibility of establishing — human connections.” I never saw the world in the same way again.

Granting that these are philosophical questions, please consider them nevertheless: What’s worse — losing our lives or losing our humanity? Are you sure? Is there a meaningful difference? Are you sure? Is life worth living without our humanity? Are you sure?

We can do better than this. We have to.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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  1. nicely done Mark ….

    Re “The reason we consider Victor’s creature to be a monster is that he has — and has no possibility of establishing — human connections.”

    .. to rif on something I just read … are ‘you’ sure 😊 … AIs and Robotics have moved on a pace … Is Victor’s monster made of spare parts not an earlier version of Wallee?

    Still – putting a fun philosophical debate aside for a moment … death IS life. But death at scale is a concept that people do not understand – it gets reduced to statistics and trends and maths and most people do NOT understand those disciplines.

    Data such as COVID has now killed more US citizens than the Vietnam War, Gulf War, Afghanistan War, and Iraq War combined washes over them. We can’t even start to comprehend what that means. But to lose your 80 year old grandmother, your 50 year old father or 8 year old son. **NOW** you understand,

    Death through COVID in NYC, is real and personal. Every single person knows people with COVID. Sone know death personally. The Humanity is REAL. RAW. NO experts needed – you can see it all – up. close and personal.

    Over in Wisconsin – picking a ‘random state’ – so far with ‘only’ 52,000 cases and less than 5,000 deaths and even an enviable0.8 R number they are not experiencing that REAL RAW emotion. New York to them is death at scale. It doesn’t affect them. Thus they can rebel and threaten their own governor. I worry for them. They don’t worry for themsleves.

    Only the next few weeks will tell us who is right.

    • Well, at least Wall-ee had EVE, John. Victor deprived his creation of any such companionship.

      I completely agree with your take on our general inability to discern scales we can’t comprehend. That inability is compounded by the lack of objectively truthful numbers; competing, speculative models; erroneous reporting; hidden agendas; and even better hidden money trails. It’s uncertainty unto existential crisis and despair.

      Wisconsin, Michigan, beaches on both coasts, and reckless congregators will be the canaries in the coal mines. And I agree again: Time will tell us who’s right.

      Regardless of who’s right, thank you for your comments. And please keep yourself safe and healthy.

  2. Wow Mark, very entertaining! I love the video.. being a novice here I’m tapping into this realm as well. The animation I have in mind for another series of mine is swimming in my mind here! Did you do your own video?
    Great poetic messages.. I like the delivery.
    There is no humanity if your not connecting? Every single human matters. Only half the world is online … reaching out means knowing their methods too!.. there are so many! My mother sent me mail.. she is using her iPad, but sometimes gets confused.. and that’s ok.. we know where to find her.
    I’m trying to consider more those who are not on the same applications and checking how they like to be reached… it’s game of seek at times.. but keep seeking. That’s the main thing!
    Great article. Thank you Paula

    • Thank you, Paula.

      I consider myself a novice, as well. Yes, I do the videos. But I use a software program to create them, the limitations of which I’m quickly realizing. I’m hoping if the content is good enough, I can get by for a while.

      And I agree with your points about reaching out and connecting. Electronic media make it much easier. But not everyone can use it. That, of course, limits our abilities to reach some folks, especially with pandemic-related restrictions placed on us. All of that is part of the challenge and the learning curve.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I always enjoy our exchanges.

  3. Thank you for this Mark. “What’s worse — losing our lives or losing our humanity?” that question is hard but also very clear for me. It always comes back to my values. People’s lives, betterment of humanity will always be my values.

    When people are angry that the businesses they need so bad are closed, I get that. Close to 30M people lost their jobs; their lifeline. I also get the risk the front line workers are taking especially the health workers. If we had a sister, son, father whose life is at risk can we really protest so fierce-fully? is what I ask in my mind. I strongly believe health and well-being comes first. Why would every country except Sweden and may be a few others shut down? Because lives matter more than anything. Although this impacted me negatively, I am OK to choose health and humanity first.

    Now we are at the stage, we know more and we can give different decisions but at the beginning when we predicted may be millions to die, lives matter more. Even if I lose my lifeline too.

    The connection is too important especially those who could not go out at all, and even those are well but we never took the time to say hi. So thank you for the reminders.

    • I’m with you all the way, Brooke. What’s the point of living — what is life and living — without our humanity? It would make us more like robots … or rocks.

      As is true in all times of difficulty and turmoil, this time will reveal who are meaningful friends are and who they are not. The people of integrity, of compassion, of sincere caring emerge. The fair-weather folks fade away. Such is the way of the world.

      I hope you’re keeping yourself safe and healthy. I look forward to speaking with you on Thursday. And I’m grateful to you for sharing your thoughts here.

    • You’re supposed to be struggling with this, Kimberly. It’s a struggle. And you’re human. Not unlike me.

      Like everything else in life, this is a test. If we trust our better angels, we win. If we trust our lesser angels, we fret, we suspect, we blame, we embitter ourselves and alienate others. I’ve spent a good deal of time looking for my Certainty Manual. I still can’t find the damn thing. So, there’s nothing to be done but to get on with it sans manual.

      As long as we’re still sharing thoughts with each other, here and elsewhere, my Spidey Sense tells me we’ll be okay.

      Thank you for sharing thoughts with me, here and elsewhere.

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