I was finally able to attend a service of worship in person recently. We were very few, widely spaced, following all the current rules, and I needed it. After some recent events, I had gotten mentally wrapped around the axle dealing with a problem that was my responsibility but outside of my control at that point. (Said problem has been resolved since then.)
My problem was a matter of scale. Everything has been shrinking since mid-March, to the point where if it wasn’t Day Job, household, or virus-news-of-the-day, it was almost impossible to get good information or to maintain a healthy sense of perspective. It happened so gradually that I didn’t realize how bad it had become.
Part of the problem is that the national media, even the alternative sources, have been locked onto the Wuhan fever and ignoring everything else in the world. When a damaging earthquake in Salt Lake City gets twenty seconds and/or one paragraph on the day of the event, and then nothing ever again (unless you hang out on geology sites), something’s odd. Floods, range fires, terror attacks against a maternity hospital, power shifts in Europe . . . Nothing is worthy of notice unless the Wuhan fever is involved in some way. Pardon the pun, but that’s not healthy for the people consuming the information.
The preoccupation with deaths is also not good for maintaining perspective. As I’ve written before, it’s hard to keep in mind that unless people 1. have health problems to begin with, 2. are older than 65-70, or 3. are just really unfortunate, they get a little sick, or not sick at all. 99% survival rate or better, based on the ever-changing numbers. That’s not the first rounds of the Black Death, or the early rounds of smallpox, or virgin soil epidemics in the Americas. But no, the media focus on deaths, or make it seem as if recoveries are rare and unusual. (Now, granted, anything that makes a person sick enough that they have to go on a ventilator is bad news, and ventilators themselves can be bad news for some patients. That’s true for viral pneumonia, influenza, or anything else. If you want scary numbers, look up the child mortality rate for Influenza B this past year. Nasty bug.)
So it is easy to lose perspective. People are physically confined, even in places like Texas where we could get out of the house and shop or roam neighborhoods and make home improvements. Churches and temples closed, removing easy access to one major perspective-adjuster. The news media focus on the virus and nothing else. Local and state governments? Ditto.
The world goes on. That’s not what the media are selling, not what governments are selling in many cases. There are much, much bigger things than Wuhan fever. China is nibbling chunks off of India again. Russia is doing whatever Russia does. Iran . . . yeah. Typhoons drown thousands and force millions to flee their homes. Latin America has its own problems, locust swarms are causing misery in parts of Africa and south Asia. Babies are born, kids learn to read, couples fall in love, wildflowers bloom, and we run the risk of losing sight of that.
Part of me really wonders if, all political affiliations aside, so many in the media no longer believe in a traditional religious faith that they truly can’t see the forest for the current-events trees. They don’t learn history, they don’t understand math (they’re not alone there), and they have nothing else to ground them in the larger, longer view of things. This world is all that there is. Their immediate surroundings and friends and family are all that is. If that is threatened, all is threatened, forever and ever, because there IS nothing else in their view.
Western civilization survived the Black Death (although the religious bureaucracy and trust in the Church as an institution took a beating. Faith remained.) It survived the Thirty Years War. In the US, it survived WWI and WWII. Wuhan fever should be a challenge, especially now that we’ve seen how quickly certain groups want to strip civil liberties, and how fast some people are willing to give them up. It’s not the end of the world. The “new normal” should be a reclamation of powers loaned to governments at all levels, and a ferocious determination not to let our liberties be trod upon in the future.
And stop calling SARS-2, Wuhan fever, the Winnie-the-Pooh flu, Kung Pao Sicken or whatever “the novel corona virus.” The novelty wore off in March, if not sooner.