Unique world events offer a unique opportunity to learn new lessons. Here are a few we have had an opportunity to learn recently.
1. It’s a small world. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically demonstrated how interconnected the modern world is. A virus from a remote part of China has reached Canada (and almost every other country in the world) through multiple diverse routes. We can no longer pretend that what happens in one place does not matter to those of us in another place. As John Donne observed over three centuries ago, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
2. It is a rich world we live in. Consider the closures and cancellations that have occurred. Sports, both those we enjoy as spectators and those we enjoy as participants. Concerts. Plays. Movies. Church services. Museums. Historic Sites. Swimming pools. Skating rinks. Recreation centres. Restaurants of all varieties. Exercise classes. Schools. Art galleries. Libraries. Bookstores. Ski hills. Planetariums. Zoos. Nature walks. Drop-in centres. Social gatherings. Game nights. Parties. Many of these things are now being denied to us, and they are things that we have often taken for granted. Our temporary loss of these things should remind us of how blessed we have been, and we should be grateful.
3. There is much that remains. Despite its flaws, we have a medical system that is widely accessible; it offers medicines and treatments and knowledge that were not even thought of just a few centuries ago. We should perhaps also be reminded that just as the virus has spread over the world, so also can treatments and vaccines and knowledge be spread, as we learn from each other’s experience. We have governments that, despite their flaws, provide a coordinated effort to deal with plagues and other disasters and that provide law and order. We have a well-developed commercial system that makes food, clothing, and abundant quantities of many other goods from around the world readily available to us. We take it for granted that if we need something, we can simply go to a store and buy it. And, no matter how many churches close, the Church remains, for God is not frightened or hindered by any virus.
4. We can slow global warming. We human beings are being given a golden opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint. The reductions in travel, work, and manufacturing will allow many countries to meet their carbon reduction goals, at least temporarily. But we may also be realizing that this is coming at an enormous economic cost, which will definitely increase human suffering. Going green is not as easy as environmental advocates sometimes naively assert.
5. Social distancing is unnatural. Human beings are social creatures. From the beginning, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Social distancing and self-isolation have seemed shocking to us. They remind us of the many social interactions that have been available to us. Again, being denied social interaction reminds us of the great blessings of living in society, in families and neighbourhoods and communities and nations, and we should be grateful for that opportunity.