Posts Tagged ‘Pandemics’

  1. People often deny there is a problem
  2. It’s often worse than you thought
  3. Many people will panic
  4. Some people will jeopardize others with their negligence
  5. People are often more afraid of dying than they knew
  6. Self-preservation leads some people to hoarding
  7. Many become self-sacrificial in ways that defy the survival instinct
  8. There will always be people who exploit suffering to their own benefit
  9. Disaster can pull people apart
  10. Disaster can pull people together
  11. Some adopt as their operational motto “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”
  12. Some people discover their own deepest spirituality
  13. Boredom can lead to experimentation and novelty
  14. Feeling helpless often leads to depression
  15. People can obsess over statistics like death rates
  16. The poor always suffer the most
  17. Emotions are contagious
  18. When great interruptions arise new models are often created
  19. Confining people can lead to growing closeness
  20. Confining people in dysfunction often leads to abuse
  21. Isolation is not the same as solitude
  22. People become aware of what they take for granted
  23. Shortages often bring about sharing and thriftiness
  24. The world is surprisingly interconnected
  25. Viruses seem to have a life of their own
  26. Interrupting the mad rush to acquire and own can be redemptive
  27. Sharing communal meals are important
  28. Some people have no social network
  29. Pandemics represent a margin out of which change takes place
  30. People never know what they can do until they have to
  31. Great threats cause the tribe to temporarily table secondary conflicts
  32. Leadership is always tested to the max
  33. New leaders often arise in times of crisis
  34. Disasters often destabilize regimes that are faltering
  35. Charlatans, soothsayers, and end-times prognosticators abound in dire times
  36. Fear is the emotion that creates most of the other negative emotions
  37. Our elders who have previously lived through hard times often give the best council
  38. Rigid social roles often become more fluid
  39. Resilient people find ways to grow, change, and help others
  40. Spirituality is a real and sustaining force
  41. People redefine their relationship to the larger natural world
  42. Illusions of permanence and security are often shattered
  43. Sex and prayer often increase
  44. Children are most traumatized by the terror of their parents
  45. We are not in control
  46. Now can be terrible, but now is not forever
  47. People who thrive are centered, trusting and hopeful before the crisis hits
  48. When people share urgent circumstances they form a special bond
  49. Virus and bacteria life forms have always inhabited our planet
  50. Hard choices have to be made that are often not comfortable
  51. People of the future will remember this time by the way we live it
  52. Faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.

Death smiles at us all and all a man can do is smile back.
— Marcus Aurelius


In the late 1800s a man named Captain William Fowler determined that he had to remove the lingering superstition surrounding the number 13. To do so he decided to found an exclusive society called the Thirteen Club.

The group dined regularly on the 13th day of the month in room 13 of a place called the Knickerbocker Cottage. Before sharing a 13-course dinner, members walked under a ladder and a banner reading “Morituri te Salutamus,” Latin for “Those of us who are about to die salute you.”

That’s one way to do it. Head on. The hair of the dog that bit you. When death smiles your direction smile back. Get familiar with the distinguished reaper. Make friends. If you have fears or reservations, let them not be for the wrong reasons. Like the number 13.

Truth be told, we have lots of symbolic stand-ins for our fear of death. Friday the 13th is but one of them. We have designated certain “boogy men” to represent our deepest fears. The Day of the Dead functions similarly in Latin cultures. For a barely endurable moment the curtain is pulled back and we look old death in the face. But our glance is fleeting, for only as long as we can stand it. Most of the time we live in an illusion of immortality. Until, that is, something cracks that illusion open.

As real a threat as is our pandemic du jour, and as important as it is that we all be proactive and vigilant to mitigate its damage, this current visitation of the dark angel is but its most recent iteration, a temporary appearance in a long line of appearances. Pandemics, symbolically speaking, act as the number 13. They rattle the cage of our daily routines with a chilling reminder.

And they are more than direct harbingers of their own potential destruction. They remind us that something, somehow will get us, that each person, no exception, owes one death. That unvarnished truth is the kind of thing that the great world religions never shy away from. They all recognize the impermanence of life, its limits, the mortality of this human flesh, and our very brief tour on the planet.

In the Christian tradition this is epitomized by Ash Wednesday, which even the faithful avoid like the plague because, well, the observance gazes straight into the jaws of the plague. And if you ever wonder what the symbolic function of the cross is in the Christian mythos, this is one of them: There’s no getting through this life alive. And even the best of us, the superlative souls, must pass this same way.

Pandemics – like the Corona Virus – are truth-tellers, the breakers of illusion. They say in one way or another, “I may or may not be the one. But something else will get you, now or later.” People know what they mean on an intuitive level.

We are much more likely to perish as the result of cancer, heart disease, a vehicle accident, slipping on the soap in the shower, collapsing mowing our lawn in the heat of summer, being shot in a school shooting, squatting in a refugee camp, a natural disaster and so on and so on. Whatever the Corona fails to accomplish will be taken up by another member of the team.

So no matter how irrational is Friday the 13th, it is a day that reminds us of something else, of other fears that linger barely beneath the surface. Whenever the next pandemic circles the globe on its world tour we are reminded. We are reminded of the big fear that lurks behind all other fears and makes the current threat larger than life.

That’s why our response in the face of threat – other than reasonable survival instinct precaution and practice – requires a kind of existential courage. We must indeed smile back when we are smiled upon. And the answers to our fear of death – in whatever mask it presents itself – are love, hope, faith and trust, all of which transcend that which threatens our existence. Forcing us to dig deep for those again is the one of the collateral gifts that Friday the 13th and the Corona Virus unintentionally visit upon us.