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About that movie quote from 1957, “There’s always the unexpected…” Who could know? Who could know that such a thing as the COVID-19 pandemic was coming? Or for that matter, who could know that for a matter of weeks the Colonial Pipeline gas shortage of 2021 would take us back to the the Good Old Days of 1970s energy crises. (“The two worst crises of this period were the 1973 oil crisis and the 1979 energy crisis, when the Yom Kippur War and the Iranian Revolution triggered interruptions in Middle Eastern oil exports.”)
Maybe the Good Old Days weren’t all that great either…
But seriously, I’ve been looking for a quick and easy new post. (Since I last posted on June 15.) I found On Week 8 of the Coronavirus shut-down, from May 11, 2020. I wondered how things looked “way back then” – in 2020 – and what may have changed since. As part of this update I googled “what have we learned from the pandemic.” I got 181 million results. (181,000,000.)
But first, here’s a review of that “Week 8” post. It started with my definition of the first full week of COVID. For me it started the weekend after Thursday, March 12. That’s the day the ACC Tournament got cancelled, followed shortly by cancelling March Madness and the college baseball season, along with the NBA, NHL “and other major professional sport seasons.”
I noted that even back then – early on in the pandemic – I managed to keep busy. For one example, I did things like watch a lot of lectures from The Great Courses Plus,* especially while keeping busy exercising. And one such course featured a quote on how “we” used to cope with such disasters in those Olden Days.
Like the Olden Days when Americans “conquer[ed] the American West.” (Put another way, how the “conquest and settlement of the American West transformed the United States from a regional republic into a continental power.”) That included a quote from Frederick Jackson Turner, who noted that the process developed key elements of the American character:
Domesticating the frontier … forced Americans to live by their wits, to cooperate, to revert temporarily to earlier stages of civilization, and to embody a more wholehearted democracy than anything on offer in the Old World.
Jackson added that Americans working to tame the frontier learned “to adapt, to cooperate with one another, and to treat each other as equals.” (Emphasis added.) He said that by such means as mutual cooperation and treating each other as equals, they “subdued the wild lands around them, working out ideas and techniques unknown to their ancestors.”
I was struck by Jackson’s words – like “cooperate with one another” and “treat each other as equals.” To which I could only say, “What the hell happened?”
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So what did happen? And what has happened to us over the past year of COVID? Beyond that, have we learned anything from it? And maybe even come out stronger and better?
This is from the University of Pittsburgh, One Year Later: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic – UPMC. From it I gleaned two valuable lessons: Lesson Two: Constant, clear and adaptable communication is key. And Lesson Number One: Be prepared but expect additional surprises. And that’s a lesson that pretty much ties in with that great quote from the 1957 film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, “There’s always the unexpected, isn’t there?” (You can see a short clip from the movie itself, with that quote: YARN | Yes, there’s always the unexpected, isn’t there?”)
And BTW, adaptable means “able or willing to change in order to suit different conditions.”
In turn, from the American Association of Retired Persons, I checked out 15 Lessons the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Taught Us. Lesson 12: You Can Hope for Stability — but Best Be Prepared for the Opposite. (That is, “the opposite of stability.”) And that thought seems to mirror Job 5:7 “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.”
And finally, there’s Important Lessons We Can Take from This Pandemic . (From the “tiny buddha” website. “Simple wisdom for complex lives.”) One such lesson? The power of stillness. “Our lives were put on pause, many were forced to work from home… With this, we were given the power of stillness and the opportunity to unapologetically slow down.”
Other lessons? Family and friends are important, and often taken for granted. “Our health is gold,” something else we too often take for granted. And “nature still thrives,” and may indeed be getting a much-needed break from too much travel and too much people-pollution…
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Which brings us back to my post on COVID’s Week 8.
Looking for answers about what a person can do in times of UPHEAVAL – “with elements of panic and destruction let loose” – I turned to Kenneth Clark‘s 1969 book Civilisation. He talked about how Europeans coped with the violence during the Protestant Reformation in the mid-sixteenth century. (Europe was “full of bully boys who rampaged around the country and took any excuse to beat people up… All the elements of destruction were let loose.”)
One short-and-sweet answer, “Keep quiet, work in solitude, outwardly conform, inwardly remain free.” And that pretty much ties in with what Voltaire said in his 1759 novel Candide, by Voltaire. “We must all [just] cultivate our own garden.” Or “tiny buddha” put it this way:
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.”
Good advice indeed. Thank you Voltaire! (And “Simple wisdom…”)
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Voltaire … during a time of “destruction let loose…”
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Re: “Unexpected.” But see 12 People Who Seemingly Predicted the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Re: “Great Course Plus.” See The Great Courses Plus is Now Wondrium.
Re: Nature getting a break. See Who benefits from COVID-19? Nature and wildlife – RCI | English. But see also Impact of COVID-19 on Nature – Conservation: “There is a misperception that nature is ‘getting a break’ from humans during the COVID-19 pandemic…”
Re: Upheaval. I first wrote “great upheaval,” but that terms seems redundant redundant.
The lower image is courtesy of Voltaire – Image Results. This particular image accompanies an article, “Rodama: a blog of the 18th century,” subtitled “Houdon: ‘Seated Voltaire’ at Les Délices.”
Here are some pictures of Houdon’s Seated Voltaire, the beautiful centrepiece of the Musée Voltaire at Les Délices in Geneva, which I was lucky enough to visit last Easter. This version is among the finest examples of Houdon’s famous statue, and is particularly unusual in that it is made of terracotta.
I added that I chose the image since “it seems most similar to what I might have looked like, had I gone through Voltaire’s particular trials and tribulations. (Instead of just my own.)” The full original caption: “Voltaire, a new figure – the intellectual recluse – during a time of ‘destruction let loose…’”
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