Wise Words

I have no idea who wrote the following piece, but it strikes me as worthy of wider dissemination than it has had so far. My son sent it to me the other day and said, simply, “it was written by a co-worker.” It strikes me as particularly important given the fact that we are all feeling fed-up with the coronavirus and all that it entails. We simply cannot wait until things go “back to normal” — refusing to admit to ourselves that there may be no return to normal and that the “new normal” will be like nothing we have ever experienced.

In any event, we wallow in self-pity since few of us has ever had to deny ourselves much of what we want. This is, after all, the “Age of Entitlement” not only in the schools but in the homes as well. We buy on plastic and run up our credit cards rather than wait until we have the money in savings. We want what we want when we want it. Period. We simply cannot wait for tomorrow as today is here and we know what we want and there are always ways to get it. Or so we have been taught.

Except in the present case: the virus seems to be in control and we simply sit at home and express our frustration and impatience. We have very little frame of reference since we are ignorant of history and this piece helps to fill in some of the gaps. Some of them.

Maybe we don’t have it that bad?

It’s a mess out there now. Hard to discern between what’s a real threat and what is just simple panic and hysteria. For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900.

On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath, because on your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.

Smallpox was an epidemic until you were in your 40’s, as it killed 300 million people during your lifetime.

At 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish. From your birth, until you are 55, you dealt with the fear of Polio epidemics each summer. You experience friends and family contracting polio and being paralyzed or dying.

At 55, the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict. During the Cold War, you lived each day with the fear of nuclear annihilation. On your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, almost ended. When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How did they endure all of that? When you were a kid and didn’t think your 85-year-old grandparent understood how hard school was. Yet they survived through everything listed above. Perspective is an art. Refined and enlightening as time goes on. Let’s try and keep things in perspective. Your parents and grandparents were called on to endure all of the above – You are called on to stay home and sit on your couch.

This too shall pass.

Let’s hope so. In the meantime, let’s also hope we somehow develop the virtue of patience and don’t blindly stumble toward an elusive goal of normalcy before prudence and science tell us it is time.


30 thoughts on “Wise Words

  1. Wow … what perfect perspective … everybody should read this and then just sit and think about it for a few minutes. Thank you for posting this … it definitely made ME stop and think. I shall re-blog this afternoon!

  2. Excellent! My parents were born in 1911 and 1914. They lived through much of the above and lost family in the Spanish flu epidemic. They told us about it but did not complain! There is so much complaining right now about having to stay at home, and it’s been less than three months of supposed “deprivation.” May I share this, Hugh?

  3. Dr. Curtler,

    Wise words, indeed!

    One of my most common verbal reactions to watching pandemic hooligans is simply. “Their grandparents and great grandparents must be turning in their graves.”

    And these fools are tho ones who refer to OTHERS as “snowflakes”.

    It is almost beyond comprehension. Almost…

    Regards, respects, and best wishes.

    Jerry Stark

  4. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Many of us, this writer included, have chafed at the invisible bonds of stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and the rest. Many of us finally accepted that this was the only way to save lives and we’ve made our peace with it, though still we sometimes whine. Our friend Hugh shared a piece today that made me sit back, take a deep breath, and think, put our troubles of today into an entirely new perspective. Is the glass half-full, or half-empty? Each of us will have our own take on that. Please read this short piece … and realize that what we are going through today is NOT the end of the world, and that this, too, shall pass. Thanks Hugh! We all needed this, I think!

  5. This post does add perspective to the fortunate few of us for whom sheltering in place is a temporary inconvenience. I don’t think it will assuage people who have lost many family members, healthcare workers who are now suffering from PTSD, middle class families now forced to food banks, and the very poorest among us, for whom it has simply added to their roster of miseries.

  6. Love this….we so often can’t imagine other times, other lives and other perspectives.
    Thank you

  7. Reblogged this on just drive, will you? and commented:
    Here’s a good helping of perspective for all the whiners out there during this Covid-19 crisis. What we’re asked to do doesn’t compare even a little bit to what our parents and grandparents lived through. Surely we can sit at home a little longer.

  8. Well said. Thanks for sharing. I was listening to a pandemic expert on NPR last week. He studied the 1918 Flu epidemic and was on a 2005 commission chartered by George Bush to develop a pandemic response. He said look at Singapore as an example. They have corralled the virus, by doing two things we did not.

    First and foremost, they told people the truth. That is Pandemic 101. We need to follow our truthtellers. They are the ones not patting themselves on the back.

    Second, they stayed open, but people were told to do social distancing, do testing, wear masks, wash hands, trace their contacts if they got it.

    Third, and here is the kicker. People did step two because they were told the truth.

    In spite of the reckless misinformation of the person in authority who speaks more than he should, people are coming together. I worry about reopening things in a less than judicious manner and those who feel they are invincible. Unfortunately, this will get worse before it gets better. But the advice from this person you share is wise. We must do our parts to help mitigate rash behavior. That is what our forefathers and mothers did. Keith

  9. Pingback: The Power of Perspective. – Frank Parker's author site

  10. From the UK publication The Lancet (16 May 2020): “The Trump administration’s further erosion of the CDC will harm global cooperation in science and public health, as it is trying to do by defunding WHO. A strong CDC is needed to respond to public health threats, both domestic and international, and to help prevent the next inevitable pandemic. Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.”

  11. Reblogged this on Stevie Turner and commented:
    Very true. Both my grandmothers were born in 1903. They had a much harder life than I’ve had. Even my mother, who was born in 1924, had WWII to deal with and food rationing, osteomyelitis as a child before antibiotics were widely available, and no labour saving devices until she was in her late forties. No wonder she could always beat me at arm wrestling!

  12. Pingback: The Invisible Fence | Zeebra Designs & Destinations

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