“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 2, “The Shadow of the Past”
For years I’ve inclined toward a somewhat dark and pessimistic view of general arc of human history, a view that I’ve at least partially shared with Miriam. Both of our worldviews never completely recovered from the sense of chaos induced by the parade of unsettling, sometimes apocalyptic-seeming events we experienced as we came of age during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Our shared coming-of-age perspectives notwithstanding, for many years after we started living together almost 25 years ago, we had an ongoing debate in which Miriam maintained that human existence was improving overall while I argued that it was getting worse. I eventually realized that my saying that human existence was getting worse was an overstatement. (What I really believed was that things were always simultaneously getting both better and worse; however, the faith in long-term improvement that underlay many popular belief systems was not based on reality, but it had the potential to lull people into complacency in the face of a variety of unpredictable threats.) Eventually, Miriam stopped disagreeing with me, seemingly swayed by the general trend of twenty-first century events.
My view of the historical prospect has always contrasted my predominantly cheery experiencing of day-to-day life. This predominantly cheery daily existence has probably at least partially been a reflection of my personal temperament, but it has also reflected an awareness that on the whole I’ve been fortunate in both my personal experiences and the times in which I’ve lived. I’ve lived mostly during times where even large-scale misfortune has been inflicted on a sufficiently local or regional level that it’s been possible for me to avoid it. Events concurrent with my coming of age as large as the American societal drama that surrounded the war in Vietnam did not end up having a major direct effect on me.
The other side of my awareness that my luck has been good has been the awareness that things could change at any moment. While not wanting to dump additional misfortune on those coming after me, I have repeatedly wished privately that various bad things would hold off until after I was dead or at least no longer able to notice them.
Although a viral pandemic probably wouldn’t have been the first macro-catastrophe that would have occurred to me to worry about, I imagine that it would have been in my top five. Over the years I’ve periodically seen reasonable-sounding discussions of the threat of a viral pandemic that would significantly affect the United States. Therefore, it didn’t come as a total surprise to me to find one finally arriving in my neighborhood and myself having to decide how to deal with this particular time.
So I, like most of humanity, find myself faced with Frodo’s challenge of suddenly having to confront an unpleasant situation not of my own making. However, unlike in most works of fiction, I’ve become used to the idea that, even facing a worldwide pandemic, we’ve all been going around living in very different stories from one another. Pretty much every general statement that I might have made about the pandemic I’ve heard or read someone disagreeing with. Not only does YMMV apply even though our lives have all been dominated by the same thing, it seems that everyone’s mileage has varied. I’ve found that reflecting and writing has enhanced my understanding of my personal experience; perhaps my reflections will help readers have perspective on their own experiences.
- Alternative Views
What do I mean when I say that we’re living in very different stories from one another? From what I consider reliable sources, I’ve learned that seemingly tens of millions of Americans believe that:
- The coronavirus pandemic and associated economic fallout are signs of coming judgment, a wake-up call for us to turn back to faith in God, or both;
- the coronavirus pandemic and global economic meltdown are evidence that we are living in what the Bible calls the ‘last days’; or
- COVID-19 was created in a laboratory either intentionally or accidentally.
Less popular but still well-documented views are that COVID-19 is a conspiracy against anti-vaxxers spearheaded by Bill Gates, that it’s caused by 5G wireless networks (seemingly most popular in the United Kingdom, where arsonists have been enthusiastically trying to destroy the 5G infrastructure), that it’s caused directly by climate change, that it can be explained by astrology, and that it was originally brought to China by an American, most likely a cyclist competing in the World Military Games in Wuhan last fall.
From reading about these alternative views, I could understand why a lot of people haven’t really cared what Anthony Fauci was thinking and that my beliefs were probably only shared by a relatively small minority. However, over the years I’ve adjusted to the idea that most Americans are living narratives that don’t particularly agree with mine. Even if they don’t respect my belief system, I’m still fond of it.
Editor’s note: Expect a continuation from this writer later this month. Miriam’s Well is delighted to welcome back Richard Feldman as a favorite blogger! It’s hard for me to find “good” things during the pandemic–but his writing is one of them. Plus his presence as my spouse.
Thank you, Richard. And Miriam. 🤗🤗
This post certainly resonated with me. I will look forward to the continuation. Thanks.
Thank you for your insightful and thoughtful blog post, Rich. I will add/suggest that overpopulation and a global travel also contributed to the pandemic, and that abuse of wildlife i.e. bats, is its source concomitant with habitat loss. Furthermore, such pandemics will continue until humanity learns to live simpler. Or is forced to.
Thanks for the comments! The next installment should be out soon.
Hi, R & M! I share a generally happy day-to-day life with a sense of the dark alley just around every corner. Not to mention humor in the absurduty that is life in general! Keep writing, y’all! I may join you. My blog hasn’t seen a new post in YEARS! 😷👍🌍🤞