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Wednesday, March 18, 2020
The World Turns On A Dime
One of the most important lessons of the Coronavirus pandemic is the reminder of just how fragile life and human constructions really are. A month ago, almost no one was seriously considering the possibility that almost the entire world would be shut down as millions are threatened with premature deaths, yet here we are.
It is times like this that we must acknowledge just how insignificant and out-of-control of our fates that human beings really are. In the space of a few weeks, we have gone from globe-trotting masters of our domain to cowering in our homes to avoid being infected by a pathogen so small that it is only visible through a microscope.
In science fiction, the idea of a butterfly effect has been the basis of many stories, particularly about time travel. The theory suggests that a small change, such as killing a butterfly in the past, can cause enormous changes further down the timeline. In our own reality, a virus that likely jumped to humans from a dead bat is panicking the world and may eventually kill millions. How’s that for a butterfly effect?
The world has turned on a dime before in my lifetime. On September 11, 2001, we pivoted from celebrating the end of the Cold War to an entirely new Long War against Islamic terrorists. As with COVID-19, the change was ushered in by a shockingly swift collapse of economic markets that upended the hopes, dreams, and lives of many around the world.
Turns on a dime don’t have to occur on a worldwide or national level. Almost two years ago I wrote about my sudden diagnosis with melanoma. While I was blessed that my cancer was found at stage one and was easily treatable, others were not so lucky. I have known too many people near my own age or younger whose lives were disrupted by untreatable cancers or suddenly ended by heart attacks.
We aren’t assured that our lives will last beyond our next breath or that our nations will endure another day. No matter what our intentions or plans, our ability to carry them out is wholly at the mercy of the will of something greater than ourselves.
Whether you acknowledge the existence and supremacy of God or whether you ascribe your impotence and powerlessness to an unfeeling and uncaring universe, you are not in control of your life or your future.
I am convinced that if we dwell too much on the futility of life and the certainty of death that it would drive almost anyone crazy. “Life’s a bitch and then you die” is a bleak outlook, but, if we depend solely on ourselves, it is ultimately all that we have.
The Coronavirus epidemic will run its course. The stock market will rebound. Life will go on.
But the world will turn on a dime for another reason one day and we are still going to die of something, whether it’s Coronavirus or old age decades from now or a car crash tomorrow. Life is always fatal.