My First Hint of the Oncoming Pandemic
Somewhere in a short news report last December I read about a town in central China experiencing a contagion — an unknown flu — born out of what was called their “wet market.” I gave it little attention. A week later my son sent me a new computer as an early Christmas gift and the week after that I received a special mouse pad he had ordered for it, made in China. The package was awkwardly wrapped and covered with all kinds of custom receipts and Chinese stamps.
Like a faint bell ringing in my mind, I thought of the article I had read in passing. I didn’t open the package with the mouse pad but instead went to the post office and asked if they thought the package was safe to open. I gave them the name of the town experiencing the illness and said I was a bit worried.
No one knew anything back then. Oddly enough, the postal clerk had spent time in China and told me the city my package came from was far from the central city I had read about and it was fine to open it. So I did, and found a mouse pad that was perfect for me, images of earthstones and crystals. I am using it now as I write. Every so often when I look at it those few minutes in the post office come to mind.
Rumors and reports then quickly began to proliferate about the contagion, yet to be called a pandemic. Less than three months later I read another news report stating Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson had been tested and the positive report had sent them into quarantine in Australia. The moment I read that was the first time I truly began to believe whatever was going on was serious. Tom Hanks was one of the most truthful guys on the planet. If he had been struck down by the contagion, it was suddenly far more real to me.
I have a rather gullible nature, so I try and compensate for that by not readily accepting information, by making sure I find the most accurate facts and outcomes. What has struck me this past year is how little reliable information there has been swirling around us, how difficult it has been to sort through what to believe and what to discount. And how rapidly that unknowing can spin into fear.
About the Refusal to Wear Masks
I have felt utterly bewildered by the ongoing anger and violence wearing masks has produced in so many people, though masks were clearly evidenced right away as a tool for our own protection and a way to save lives. This one feature and reaction is still, to me, the most perplexing outcome of the last year. It, more than anything else, has altered my perceptions in a deep way.
Is it that people feel oppressed by being told what to do? If so, they have no idea what oppression really is and might need to read some history or visit some third-world countries run by dictators. Do people believe they are immune? Why? Do they simply refuse to believe the real evidence? All these and so many other reasons likely apply.
But the real revelation to me in the last year has been the growing awareness that so many people are not willing to follow the idea we are our brother’s keeper, our sister’s keeper — all of us. The simple act of wearing a mask has been and remains a personal challenge to people, like some eighteenth-century duel to the death — literally.
In the book of Genesis 4:9 Cain says to God “Am I my brother’s keeper?” after he has killed Abel.
Have we changed so little?
Each day I wake in joy at being alive, being here now.
I feel gratitude in the same moment for the first responders who have not hesitated to enter into dangerous places.
I feel gratitude for my friends who are ICU nurses and do not hesitate to go to work on the night shift, often seeing patients in their last minutes of life, some of whom will deny even to the death that they have the contagion and show anger at the masks the nurses wear.
I feel gratitude for the good nature of the grocery shop cashiers who show such a welcoming spirit, though I watch them dealing with customers who want to hoard white goods or who wear masks that are half on and half off or who vent their personal, unconscious fear.
I feel gratitude for those who voted to take care of us all financially with the Relief package just passed in Congress. I do wonder at the fact one party refused en masse to vote for the package, though many of them have constituents who are suffering in rural and worn-down towns desperately in need. Such votes rejecting the Relief package were cast by millionaires. This is a moral and ethical disconnect. Before the pandemic, I would not have believed it possible to this extent.
I feel gratitude for those who help us give voice to our experiences.
I feel gratitude for the time this pandemic year has given me to become more aware of the grace of life and in life.
Carl Sagan famously said “We are made of star stuff.” We all share physically the most fundamental elements of the universe. Each of us is a unique expression of the same Oneness that has brought us into being. Though our history would argue the point, we are never separate — we are, indeed, our brother’s keeper, our sister’s keeper.
This past year, this pandemic year, has revealed to me how free I am to give to each day my best self, no matter what. It is why I am here. This is my job, to live in awareness of grace, to live in the energy of the life force, to give more than I need to receive.
Note: What I’ve written here was spurred on by this article in Creators Hub. The editors welcome everyone’s impressions on the pandemic year: https://medium.com/creators-hub/what-comes-to-mind-when-you-think-about-the-pandemic-anniversary-49c35d6b25d8