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Which of our brains do we need for this?


The current Las Cruces economy has got to be the strangest one it has ever had.

Houses are selling like crazy, at prices higher than we’ve ever seen, thanks in large part to interest rates lower than we’ve ever seen.

Many businesses are gone, having failed during the difficult times of the pandemic.

Some businesses are rocking and rolling.

Other businesses have huge demand, and lots of customers, but are struggling to find enough employees and/or product inventory to meet those demands.

There are fewer people in the workforce, due to pandemic cutbacks, or people who lost their jobs when businesses went under.

Yet there’s a lack of urgency for many to re-employ. The combination of stimulus checks, unemployment checks and tax refunds have given many people a cushion. And the pandemic lifestyle, which featured a lot of people working from home, reduced outside activities such as shopping and eating, and less driving, meant people’s expenses were reduced.

Industries such as construction and restaurants are particularly affected by the internationally disrupted supply chains.

All this put together means business and the economy are terribly difficult to predict and understand right now. Did the pandemic forever change the way things are done? Or were the changes just temporary? Most likely we’ll use the best of what we learned and chalk the rest to experience.

Remember, this was the first pandemic any of us have gone through, so no one had all the answers. We still don’t.

When trying to wrap my head around things, I weighed some comments from two of our Las Cruces Bulletin columnists in their offerings last week.

In his “Tales from the Cassock” column in our Religion section, Father Gabriel Rochelle, an Orthodox priest, said, “The heart unites; the mind divides.”

In his “Golf Doctor” column in our Sports section, Charlie Blanchard talks about the two sides of the brain, and how they affect one’s golf game. Too much conscious thinking, especially negative thinking, can really drag down your golf game, was the way I interpreted it.

The right side of the brain, Blanchard said, deals with images, intuition and the right now. The left side deals with logic, calculations and the future. Turning that left side off, and being present with the right side’s “feel and flow,” will serve you best on the golf course, Blanchard concludes.

A lot of us thought, or at least hoped, when the Covid numbers kept dropping in the spring, and everything opened back up, the economy and everything else would start heading back to normal.

But now, with the surge of Covid’s Delta variant, and stagnating vaccination rates, more unpredictability is on the horizon. Between July 25 and Aug. 8, the number of cases increased in all 50 U.S. states by an average of 111 percent. The highest increase was in New Hampshire (310 percent) and the lowest was Nevada (21 percent). New Mexico was above the average at 160 percent.

And while our state is back to February/March levels, seeing nearly 300 new cases a day, locally things are a little better. Dona Ana County has not spiked. We’re still seeing a dozen or so new cases a day; however, none of those should be discounted in any way.

America’s travel patterns could still affect us.

The states with the highest rates per 100,000 are all in the south: Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. All of us know people in those states, and people in those states are traveling all over America. And Americans from all over are traveling there. That’s not to mention other countries, most of which have a much lower vaccination rate than America’s 50 percent fully vaccinated rate. Some examples: Japan, 32 percent; Mexico, 21 percent; Philippines, 9 percent. Canada, which leads all nations, still has a long way to go at 62 percent.

Both your left brain and your right brain will tell you from that information we’re not out of the woods with Covid yet.

We’re an easily divided country these days, an easily divided world. And we’re often divided by relatively insignificant things, and our desire to have the better-sounding answer than our neighbor, regardless of what’s the correct answer.

As we deal with each other, I think we’re better off if we follow Father Gabe’s advice to lead with our hearts instead of our minds.

And as for dealing with the Las Cruces economy, with limited predictable data, we may be better off listening to Doc Blanchard and go with that creative, instinctive right brain.

Richard Coltharp