I’m starting to write this column on the afternoon of Sunday, March 15. The current news is almost all coronavirus, and I’m wondering what the shape of the world will be on or about March. 25 when the column and the rest of TBN News is scheduled to appear.
For the past 20 minutes I’ve been viewing news on my computer. One item has shown grocery stores being ransacked by customers wanting to shore up their supplies of food and other basics for the days ahead. Another item featured the head of the World Health Organization stating that Europe is the epicenter of the corona pandemic.
This makes me wonder two things: (1) Should I be comforted that Europeans are in more trouble than Americans? (2) What is the meaning of “epicenter”?
With time, I suppose you and I will learn the answers to those two things, and a few others. In times of crisis — of which it seems we’re now experiencing — it is perhaps wiser not to ponder on the future (which is unknowable, even in good times) and to reflect instead on previous frightening events and how they played out.
Depending on your age, you may recall the Great Depression of the 1930s. Men and women standing in line for a few slices of bread, and FDR telling us “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The Depression came to an end, mostly because of another evil event —a world war whose results are still felt in parts of our globe. A memorable chapter, for Britons, was the summer of 1940 when the Nazi air force tried — and failed — to bomb parts of England back into the Dark Ages. Today I’m sure there are 90-year-old Londoners asking themselves, “Will the coronavirus be any worse than the Battle of Britain?”
As the shooting war ended, the Cold War began, with bigger and more fearsome nuclear warheads proclaimed every few years. I can remember opening news magazines of the 1950s and often concluding “We won’t make it to the year 2000, no way.” But here we are today, or at least some of us.
You probably have your own array of fearsome events that took place in your lifetime — Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, JFK and Dallas, the Korean war, Vietnam, AIDS, the 9/11 attack, the 2008 stock market crash. Can you remember exactly how you felt and how you reacted to each one? Doubtful. Time tends to smooth over and erase memories, both good and bad.
How do humans around the world meet and react to disasters? The history books can later give us the big picture. Newsreels can capture the details, including scenes that few people will enjoy watching. As I write today, I’m wondering how the Corona Epidemic of 2020 will be summarized and described. Let’s hope it does not extend into 2021 and beyond.
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Now it’s Monday, March 16. I’m planning to make a run to my grocery store for basic food needs. I don’t know whether most of the shelves will be stocked or empty.
Can you name a book or pamphlet telling us how to react to a major threat such as the coronavirus? I’m sure a hundred different suggestions are out there. Even at their worst moments, the Brits in 1940’s hellishness kept saying “Stay calm and carry on.” and they did so. “One day at a time” and “Easy does it, but do it!” are two useful ideas of many I learned in 12-step meetings. Best of all was the Serenity Prayer.
Whether the corona curse kills or spares each of us, we may be judged by how we responded to our fellow humans as the battle raged. “Be kind” was novelist Kurt Vonnegut’s philosophy in bad times or good.
Fear often walks out the moment kindness walks in. Courage, kindness and reassurance will be in high demand. Starting right now.
In coming days we may all learn new things. I hope the world’s scientists and government leaders will do likewise, so that we can stifle the next corona wave before it even gets rolling.
I will close with two mottoes from previous rough patches: (1) “Keep a stiff upper lip” and (2) “Keep smiling!” (Obviously, do them one at a time.)