Washington Irving told the fictional tale of a man who goes to sleep and wakes up in a whole new world. We have much in common with Rip Van Winkle.
When you woke up, the world had changed.
It wasn’t because of some novel technological discovery. Instead, it is something fundamental to human existence: an ugly virus called COVID-19. No one could have predicted the rest.
When I was going to bed, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins was mandating the shutdown of any event with over 500 people.
It’s a new world.
We’ve had diseases since the dawn of creation. Who hasn’t shivered with flu chills or have drip through the common cold? Children scratch chickenpox, and stomach issues come and go.
Not COVID-19. We know little about it. It looks like the flu but doesn’t mimic it completely. You are contagious before you are sick. No one is cured, but recovers.
But it is a mirror of mankind in the 21st century.
Western culture developed a certain hubris that man and his technology held the helm of human existence. Over my lifetime, the phrase “if we can put men on the moon, why can’t we…” It’s a cultural tagline that means “look at how powerful we are.”
The truth is we were lulling ourselves into deluded security. When it comes to the virus, we describe but cannot stop it. No amount of artificial intelligence, MRI’s, vaccines, or prescriptions can fix it.
This one is worse than the moon shot. Thousands have died and will continue to die. Doctors must make decisions on who to treat and not treat. It’s beyond capacity.
It also reflects a certain personal sloppiness. Which mother has not wagged a finger and asked, “did you wash your hand?” A 10-year-old says, “yeah.” What that usually meant was I ran the water, and it got a little moist.
We sneezed and coughed indiscriminately. We rubbed our eyes, wiped our noses, scratched an itch, and cradled our head in our hands. Now, after a lifetime of habitual face-touching, we find it an ominous menace.
We cough and wonder, “do I have it?” Worse, someone else coughs, and we wonder, “do they have it?” Barriers get erected, and suspicions develop.
We don’t know how to greet people. Wave? Bow? Bump elbows? Use Mr. Spock’s Vulcan salute? Who knows! Instead, we keep what is now called “social distancing.”
Universities have canceled classes in favor of online learning. (How do you do a lab or piano recital online?) Public schools scramble to find a way to educate while protecting. Do we close or not? How long?
It’s going to be a dull summer. No baseball, hockey, NBA, March Madness. (I suggest we call the virus March Madness.) Golf tournaments take place without galleries.
It’s a new world, a sterile one devoid of human touch. We’ve retreated to our houses (or should we say “caves”), and wonder who is going to fix this.
Welcome to the new world!
I suspect the world, now stretched out of shape, will never return to its “normal.” This is the new normal.
And yet, we can complain. But that does little good. Instead, we learn to deal with the world that we have rather than yearning for the world that we lost.
What do we do now? A few suggestions:
Take responsibility for your own health. We have depended on the medical community to “make us well.” Take charge. Watch diet, sleep, stress, and personal habits. Learn to wash your hands, and do it the right way. Break the habit of touching your face. Don’t depend on a vaccine. COVID-19 it a specter of diseases that are always changing.
Be intentionally caring. One of my personal concerns is that we are getting disconnected from people. In a time of social distancing, we need others even more. God created us to be dependent on each other. Can we reach out, whether by phone or by a safe distance, and stay in touch? Human sorrow and hurt continue, and we must help each other. Even if we don’t see each other in our “self-quarantine,” we need to stay connected.
Realize human ingenuity is not our salvation. When the Age of Enlightenment came, culture took faith and God, packed them in a box, and put them in the cultural attic. It’s time to get back to basics. It is clear we are lacking in so many ways. My motto during these times is simple. Do what you can do and let God do what you cannot do. It’s not pie-in-the-sky but something the new reality is forcing us to face again.
Who knows what will happen? I don’t know if I will get sick or not. But I do know one thing.
It’s a new world, and we need to respond differently.