We are halfway through our statewide shut-down here in Georgia. When the corona virus started making headlines about a month ago, I admit I didn’t take it seriously. I never get the flu, I didn’t get H1N1, and I didn’t think I’d get this either. It seemed like more media hype, something for the talking heads on TV to squawk about. Then I heard they were digging mass graves in China and Iran. I changed my tune real quick.
Once I realized that it was indeed a big deal, I was amazed at the reluctance of some people to admit that the virus was by necessity going to bring unwelcome changes to our lives. I saw people in denial about the economic hardships that were coming. It was like they couldn’t wrap their minds around the fact that our thriving American economy could come to a grinding halt over something we can’t even see. That’s the kind of stuff that happens in Third World hellholes, not here. Besides, everything was going so splendidly with our economy; how could that all just stop?
None of us lived through the depression, and many of us are unable to compute that American businesses could fail, millions of people could be out of work, some could go hungry. What started out as an inconvenience (having to stay home) could end with a real Depression, coupled with massive amounts of dying. American exceptionalism can’t protect us from the virus, unfortunately.
I have no problem accepting economic depression and mass death. That’s because I read a lot of history, and hardship and death are always there, lingering in the background, waiting to make a move. Just because America has had a good go of it in most of our lifetimes doesn’t mean that’s going to continue. The Black Plague in Europe killed a full 50% of the population. No one saw that coming. The Romans, at the height of their civilization, never imagined their opulent society falling to the barbarians, but fall it did. No one in Europe in 1936 could have imagined the horror that Hitler was going to visit on the continent. Their inability to imagine did not stop the thing from occurring.
Bad things happen, all the time, everywhere. I don’t care if you read “The Secret” or you believe in the Law of Attraction or you’ve been to 73 Tony Robbins conferences; bad things will still happen to all of us, eventually. That is the nature of the world we live in- a fallen world, a world of death. Maybe we won’t experience horror on the scale of the Holocaust or the Khmer Rouge, but maybe we will. Denying that it’s happening won’t make it go away.
It may sound like I’m all doom and gloom, but I think the first step to living a good life is recognizing that it may not always be good. Living in a fantasy world where you believe you are special somehow, and immune to the fallen-ness of the world, is no way to live. Eventually those illusions will come crashing down around you.
I have seen people engaging in what is called “magical thinking,” believing that we can affect outcomes just by saying that everything will be okay. Christians are some of the worst at this. They think they can pray the virus away or, worse, they claim the Bible tells us not to be afraid, so they shove their fingers in their ears and sing “la la la la” as loud as possible and think all of this will just go away. The Bible does say not to fear, but that means that something fearful IS eventually going to happen. Having a sober, prayerful reaction to the scary thing is different than pretending it isn’t there.
I’ve really enjoyed this thriving economy we’ve had for the last three years. I’m about to pay off my truck two years early, and I had a couple trips planned that I was really looking forward to before the virus began. I’m optimistic that we can beat the ‘Rona and get back to living healthy, productive lives, but I’m also aware that this may be more devastating than we initially thought. Our economy might not bounce back. It may be bad for a while, and we may all be a lot poorer. Being cautiously optimistic means that I’m thankful for the things that won’t change even if the economy goes south- time with my family, enjoying my animals, appreciating nature. Acknowledging that it could be bad just helps me appreciate life all the more while it’s good.