This is strange. How is it that, just as the delicious sweetness of Spring is descending on us, our nation and the world are withdrawing and retreating into hibernation, curling into a protective cocoon against a viral ‘winter’ of sickness and disease?
Just as most of you wonder and worry about the uncertainty of the future, I too am dismayed by recent events, and the worldwide reaction to how an invisible and determined force can so rapidly rewrite the paths of our lives. It is not what you might think of as a traditional foe that we face, but rather an intangible mixture of fear and concern that we cannot control our lives in the manner in which we are so accustomed.
Part of me feels strongly that the human pendulum has swung far too much into the negative to properly and judiciously maintain a wise life-balance. Perhaps it is not really so surprising given the nature of the human condition, but I cannot help wondering if we have given in too easily to the mania of the moment. On the other hand, I am none to eager to sit amongst a crowded movie theater audience in the darkness, secretly worrying if the fellow moviegoer a few seats away has just sneezed or coughed a few droplets of danger my way. Those constant admonitions from the medical experts seem to make a lot of sense from that perspective. So in honesty, I also feel strongly that much of the caution is warranted but it really is kind of depressing.
As usual, when jarring events like this happen, it triggers a wide variety of thoughts in my mind about what such events or crises say about all of us, our nation, our world and the way in which we live. And it occurred to me how so much of the human condition on this planet has transformed it into a 24×7 world. This has typically been a gradual transformation, but now it has been greatly accelerated in the last 75 years or so by a number of cataclysmic changes. When World War II finally came to an end, we ended up in a world where technology and science produced a frighteningly lethal device that could literally destroy the entire planet, and every living thing on it, in essentially a matter of minutes.
Eventually, the human race was able to leverage the scientific knowledge that came from the efforts to produce such a device into, among other things, a much more positive and life-saving series of inventions and tools and abilities. New ways of doing things, new labor-saving machines, new vistas of medicine and technology began to transform our human society and bring large scale efficiencies to bear against manufacturing, medical procedures, agriculture and communication. Space flight became possible and we actually, for the first time in human history, were able to ‘see’ ourselves and our entire planet from afar, inspiring Joni Mitchell in one of her songs to call the Earth ‘that marbled bowling ball’. It was a magnificent sight.
A bit more recently, the phenomenon of the interconnected communication network, or Internet, was the proverbial ‘pouring’ of gasoline onto a fire. This sealed our fate in a manner of speaking. Initially intended to serve as a tool for sharing knowledge among scientists and information system professionals, it has obviously migrated into far more than anyone ever really envisioned. Its’ commercialization and mass marketing to basically every human being on Earth has brought many wonderful developments to our front door, but like so many other new wonders, it has also brought things like a hyperventilating mass hysteria to the front door as well.
You may be familiar with the author Henning Mankell, who has written several novels about a character named Kurt Wallander who is a police detective in Ystad, Sweden. The novels became extremely popular in Europe and eventually America, and there have been some television shows adapted from those novels. I particularly recommend the Wallander series in which actor Kenneth Branagh performed in the lead role. It is great entertainment (and you can watch it at home!). Wallander is very adept at solving murders, mainly via his intense and relentless personality. So relentless in fact that he ignores food and sleep and the effects on his health. In one episode he pushes himself so blindly that he ends up in the hospital from a diabetic collapse. Afterwards, he is forced into rethinking and reassessing his life and his life style.
I bring all of this for your consideration to potentially equate what happened to the fictional Wallander character to where the world is now, forced into rethinking and reassessing how we live. This virus and the fear and sickness it has brought has caused the literal shutdown of so many things that we normally take for granted. All over the world a dangerous element has arisen that has caused the world to confront its’ own societal collapse. Over time, we have pushed ourselves and our world so blindly that we are now in the midst of being forced to severely slow down and stop and rethink our own lives. It may be a great opportunity to take advantage of reverting back, at least a little, to a simpler, less frenetic, more human approach to life and begin to remember what truly is important: Each other!