So much in life is about balancing extremes, about controlling the yin and yang no matter the circumstances.
Enthusiasm must be encouraged but curbed before it becomes an obsession. Bravery must be admired but checked when it becomes dangerously reckless. Optimism, that lubricant of hope, is a priceless quality until it becomes a form of denial, undermining its very intent.
Over recent days, weeks, and months our refuge in denial, and no little degree of delusion, has been apparent even if that indulgence is natural and understandable. There are myriad examples.
One relatively minor one is the furore over Government proposals to sanction a pay rise of €90,000 per year for the post of secretary general of the Department of Health, an increase that would bring that package to €292,000.
We need transparency on the way these decisions are made, but that salary is almost an entry point for, say, RTÉ’s top earners.
It is also far, far less than many of the total packages our private/public consultants earn. Many professionals, business people, and a good number of entertainers and sportspeople achieve those figures, but some say an individual worth appointing to what is a pivotal health position should do so for a lot less.
As ever, the bigger issue is hidden in the sub-plot, one referred to by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar when he said that Cabinet would likely reject efforts to win knock-on concessions for other top civil service posts. What an advance that would be, how worthwhile it would be if exceptional performance — once it is delivered — could be rewarded without provoking a one-for-everyone-in-the-service response.
Breaking that linkage would be a game-changer that might even generate some justified optimism.
The responses to last week’s mother and baby homes report swung from shame to sorrow, from anger to denial The Church's and the State’s actions and response have been shameful but it’s right, too, to look at our societal response.
It was often our great-grandfathers, our great-grandmothers, their brothers, and friends who drove women and their unborn children to those dreadful places. Until we confront that awful reality, that awful misogyny, that truth will fester.
Efforts to lock mother and baby home records away will delay that recovery and reconciliation too.
US president Donald Trump understands this, as in the dying hours of his administration he and his loyalists continue the practice of destroying contemporary records, even though America’s laws require that a full record of White House decision-making be preserved. Those denials, in the context of the immediate challenges facing Ireland this January morning, may seem secondary.
Chief medical officer Tony Holohan’s latest cajoling confirms that. Over the weekend, he warned that failure to comply with Covid-19 rules stymies efforts to cut infection rates.
Dr Holohan’s warning came as French cities, towns, and villages were deserted on Saturday as residents stayed home and businesses shut to observe a nationwide curfew. The virus has killed 70,000 people in France, yet we are dealing with a far higher per-capita infection rate.
Denial can indeed be a dangerous threat.