If you are alive, you have likely been hearing a lot about Coronavirus over the past few weeks. I first commented on it somewhat lightheartedly a few weeks ago when commenting on the wedding of a friend of mine , and given the way that the virus appears to have taken over the news cycle in one way or another, I thought it would be worthwhile to comment on it at least a little bit as there are many facets to the virus and its influence on the contemporary situation that are worth thinking about and that help us to reflect upon ourselves and the times in which we live. So what follow are series of vignettes all related to Coronavirus but not necessarily otherwise connected with each other. I hope you can enjoy them and appreciate them and add your own.
Earlier today I was doing some reading on social media and came across a Babylon Bee article that discussed how the current mood of avoiding social interaction, the cancellation of sports and other public activities, and isolation was a utopia for a nerd. I don’t consider that to be the case, personally. One can be an awkward person and not appreciate everyone and everything being awkward. Obviously in a time where people are immensely concerned where not panicking over physical contact there is going to be a lot less social interaction and certainly less hugs or shaking of hands or fistbumps. But is that necessarily a good thing? I wonder if this sort of induced awkwardness where everyone’s social interactions start to mirror my own is something that will last after the disease is gone. After all, there will come a time, hopefully soon, when the disease is gone and we will still have to deal with who we are and how we deal with others in the face of who we are as people.
One of the things that has been obvious in the midst of Coronavirus is that we see the disease, like we see everything else, through the prism of our worldview. To the extent that we are critical and hostile towards other people, we will tend to respond to them and to their behavior with a critical and negative attitude. Prophetic hobbyists preach gloom and doom about the stock market, often just as the stock market climbs in response to a sound public-private partnership announced by our president today that leads to a near 2k jump in the Dow Jones Industrial Index, one of the best days for the Stock Market in history, as nervous and jittery investors respond to reasonable action being undertaken and the promise that our political and business leaders are doing something help fix problems and allay concerns. Those people who do not find this sort of response comforting tend to be the sort of people who are looking for any excuse to either preach doom and gloom on the one hand or to carp about our president on the other. Disasters like this do not change who we are so much as reveal who we are to the rest of the world. In the face of threats will we panic and buy toilet paper despite the total absence of a connection between toilet paper and a respiratory illness? Will the mere similarity in name between a disease and a brand of beer make us less likely to drink that beer? If so, we are morons, but if so, we were morons before this disease came around and made that obvious to everyone else.
One of the things that is really irritating about a disease like this one is that every business or institution that one is connected to wants to let you know that they have some sort of plan to mitigate the effects of the Coronavirus. I went out to eat a couple of evenings ago after a long night at work and found that the table I was seated at was completely cleared of everything and was told by the waitress that this was due to the response of the restaurant company to the disease. I could see that keeping out containers with packets of sugar for people to touch could be a vector for the community spread of the disease, even if am still fond of sweetening my tea regardless of the public health crisis. Hearing my church cancel services for the next couple of weeks while reaching out to webcasts from the Home Office and the home of one of our local elders to be done without a live (and possibly contagious) audience is not too surprising, not least because the elderly are such a large proportion of our brethren and particularly vulnerable to a disease like this one. Likewise, I am not surprised that my local library, where I go at least once a week, has discussed such matters as well. That said, I don’t really care if the car dealership where I last visited seven years ago or so has some plan to reduce problems with Coronavirus because it is not a place I go. I realize that these companies all know that panicked customers are bad for business and that some companies could even go bankrupt if the behavior of their customers is changed for too long, but the fact that I am aware of it also means that one does not have to send such messages to people whose interest in one’s daily business is minimal. We know it’s a problem and that you are doing something about it. Good for you. The company I work for has put wipes and what not outside of every door, and quite a few of my coworkers are working from home a lot more, and all of that makes sense too. Still, do I need to hear the same sort of message from everyone?
It is important in the midst of times like this to realize that someday people will look back on this particular disease and its spread and ponder the response that was taken. That which seems hasty and rushed to us now may be seen as being ahead of the curve in times to come. That which seemed to be dilatory and slow may be seen responsible and patient later on. We have a bad record as people, especially in our times, when it comes to predicting how the future will look and all too often we are sure that something will look good in retrospect when it does not look good at all. We panic when a sense of calm concern would be better, and we bury our heads in the sand and ignore clear signs that we need to do something. Our instincts lead us astray, and those who purport to be our leaders are no more reasonable in their own responses to what is going on than we are. In times when people are losing their heads and a great many people–especially in countries like China, Italy, and Iran–are losing their lives, it is important to realize that this too shall pass, and one day we who remain alive will look back at these times and shake our heads, and then go about to lose our heads the next time some sort of panic happens and forget the lessons that we could have learned from this one.