This blog features reflections on current affairs through the lens of my Quaker faith and practice and offers not only analysis but a perspective on hope, renewal, and reconciliation - a “lift”, as I call it - during these stressful, chaotic times.
I hope that you will use the Comments feature to participate with me and with each other. I believe it will be enriching to us all.
Once upon a time there was a very mighty country - mighty in wealth, mighty in military power, mighty in technological advancement, mighty in medical competency, and, most importantly, the people were told their might was “exceptional” - way better than others - and they thus believed in their presumed sense of unquestioned, unaccountable intrinsic might.
The government of this mighty country assured its people that their military would provide for their personal safety and national security, and the people accepted this assurance, and as trade off they would be willing to spend more than half their discretionary budget in the billions of dollars, even if critical provisions for their general welfare would need to be sacrificed. Assurances of an ever expanding, consumptive economy, a sometimes miraculous history of technological progress, and seemingly unlimited natural resources to be exploited fed the pretense of being so very mighty.
And although much of the pretense was true, the country's might also had some serious limitations.
For example: In spite of the billions of dollars allocated to the military to provide national security designed to protect the country from all forms of armed or technological invasion; and despite the government’s commitment to isolationism as a way of preventing any outside limitations on its independent control of its self interest; and despite its hubris and arrogance that it was outside international law and it had the presumed right to ignore compelling arguments of scientific research about the realities of planetary sustainability; in spite of all this power something very unexpected happened.
The mighty country suddenly was humbled, not by invading armies, or nuclear missiles, or cyber attacks from enemy nations, but by a tiny, mysterious, uncontrollable, largely hidden, quixotic, yet apparently pervasive lethal virus. Incredibly within days the tiny virus seriously threatened and disrupted the mighty stock market. The tiny virus also left the country’s governmental leaders vulnerable in ways that no scandal or political corruption was able to do. Suddenly billions of dollars of military armament meant nothing before the tiny invading virus. Instead of military, technological, and financial wealth protecting the people, the only tenable line of defense was the likely unreliable instruction to wear a little paper protective face mask and wash one’s hands.
Commentary on the allegory...
What an incredible irony, isn’t it, that all the great power and might of a nation is relatively powerless and vulnerable to a tiny microbe? Of course I hope the reality of a lethal coronavirus pandemic does not materialize. It seems almost beyond imagination that a threat from a tiny mysterious virus has immobilized much of the presumed powerful systems in our country already, even before its extent is carefully identified and understood: the stock market crashes, industry stumbles, the airlines and travel industry is threatened and forced to adjust, the administrative capacity of our nation teeters, and suddenly every person and community throughout our nation is on high alert and largely defenseless before a presumed life-threatening disease! Appropriately or not, one can surmise that the planet somehow, by itself, is humbling our species with a somber reminder that the great Life Force of the living Gaia can and will ultimately provide sovereign rule.
If there is a promised SEP “lift” to this allegory, it might be that the coronavirus is the planet's prophetic reminder of our personal and planetary vulnerability. The truth is we are vulnerable to the laws of nature and our failure to reconcile ourselves to those laws will exact a heavy price in likely very surprising ways like the coronavirus. The coronavirus itself is a symbolic, yet real, prophetic voice reminding us of our vulnerability and the compelling need to change.
*Definition of Allegory
An allegory is a work of art, such as a story or painting, in which the characters, images, and/or events act as symbols. ... An author may use allegory to illustrate a moral or spiritual truth, or political or historical situation. Allegories can be understood to be a type of extended metaphor.