Finding Real Life in Quarantine

Like most Americans, my corner of the country is largely shut down at the moment due to the Chinese Virus–schools, churches, restaurants, etc. are all closed for at least a month. We’ve certainly been fortunate to be less disrupted than many families. I already work remotely, so outside of Sunday, my daily routine is mostly unaffected.  So far. School and therapy sessions have been cancelled for my kids, though, so we’ve gone from part-time homeschooling to full-time, and I’ve been taking some time off to help my wife care for them.

Of course, it’s a very different story for many other Americans. For parents whose kids are in school full-time, workers whose jobs are indefinitely on hold or even lost, people whose states of health make them vulnerable, and so forth, it’s been a much more drastic change with very real hardships. It’s nothing I would ever wish on anyone. But whatever we might wish,  it’s here all the same. And because its here, it’s worth pausing to reflect on what kind of silver linings we might ultimately find in this storm.

Like most times of trouble, a major disruption like this also an opportunity to learn to adapt to change, discover some of the fragilities of modern life, and to simply experience life outside of the routines we’ve been stuck in. Many companies are forced to experiment with emptying their traditional cubicles and allowing many workers the opportunity to work from home. Many households are forced to think further ahead when purchasing consumer goods and re-evaluate just how much of that consumption is truly necessary. Americans are forced to reconsider many aspects of globalism–open borders, free-trade, outsourced manufacturing, etc–that have made something that’s really a relatively minor illness such a game-changing pandemic. And perhaps most significantly, families need to take a long break from outsourcing their children’s education to the government, and spend more time with them–playing, teaching, and growing alongside of them.

Though my first prayer is for health, recovery, and protection for our nation, my second is that this pandemic would be an opportunity for us to step outside of some of the artificial bubbles we’ve created for ourselves. If we can get past the fear and danger that’s inherent in turmoil, it might uncover much of value that we had forgotten–the joys of family, the value of faith, and the necessity of coming together as a nation–both to cooperate in sensible precautions that inconvenience us and to move forward with courage in the face of danger. This is all a hardship, to be sure, but hardship has a habit of making us stronger people in the long run.

It’s precisely the presence of these real hardships and real opportunities that have me laughing so much at the media lately. Not because of all the ridiculous fear-mongering–that’s simply abhorrent. But I laugh when I see them frantically trying to return our minds and spirits to the same old artificial concerns that have been overshadowed by issues of greater import.

While some households are wondering whether they’ll have enough money to pay rent this month, media figures and obsolete politicians would desperately like us to be afraid that terms like “Wuhan Flu” or “Chinese Virus” are racist. It’s kind of a hard sell, though, since it’s not exactly beyond the pale for anyone to name pathogens, diseases, and conditions after their place of origin. To be sure, not everyone is going to be aware that the Zika Virus and Lyme Disease are named after specific locales or that SARS and MERS are acronyms that include South Asian and Middle Eastern respectively. Nevertheless, we all remember West Nile from a few years ago, Stockholm Syndrome is pretty firmly in the public consciousness, and we’ve been told about the Spanish Flu every 5 minutes for the last 2 months. In short, there are few people stupid enough to actually feel offense at the term, so its painfully obvious that the concern trolls are just playing shame games–at a time when people are struggling to keep their pantries full.

Other people are concerned about their aged relatives and family members with suppressed immune systems. While the Chinese virus isn’t particularly dangerous for the young and healthy, there are people close to most of us to whom it represents a very serious mortality risk. But the media can’t have you worrying about whether Grandma will still be with you by Mother’s Day. No, they want you to refocus on the *real* issue: the strain on our health-care system might make it harder for men to pretend they’re women.  But try as they might to raise the stakes by throwing “life saving surgeries” into the headline, we’re well aware that the danger to transgenders comes mainly from themselves. As we get to know our boys and girls better over the next few months, (particularly without schools trying to confuse them about their sexuality) the blatant absurdity of a supposed obligated to cut your son’s balls off because he likes the color pink is only going to be harder to ignore.

And of course, we can’t have anything without Planned Parenthood chiming in. After all, though the Guardian fears the impediment to sterile orgies [link] that the pandemic represents, our nation’s most prominent baby murderers have a greater fear: As couples find comfort and togetherness in physical intimacy during times like these, their affection runs the risk of blossoming into new life. We can’t have that, so Planned Parenthood wants to make sure there’s no baby boom resulting from this pandemic.  “Too many children” has always been the concern of those who love humanity but hate actual people. But amidst our eerily quiet streets, social isolation, and more of our grandparents being taken from us (all at a time when our birth rate is at its lowest level ever,) it’s harder to maintain the illusion that having a family is a great evil from which we need protection.

One has to find a way to laugh–even in hard times–and I laugh at things like this because they are all the last gasps of a dying worldview. Decadence is never sustainable in the face of genuine hardship, and blatant stupidity has a shorter shelf-life when danger forces us to be more practical. That’s something every nation has to face sooner or later because some form or hardship will always come knocking eventually. It’s only been such a shock to us because of the fragility of many of our economic and social systems.

So everyone: Stay safe. Be smart. Don’t despair. God is with us even in times like this–especially in times like this. By all means, mourn with those who mourn. But don’t forget to look for goodness as well. And as you pray for health and recovery, remember to pray that our perseverance through these times will build character as well.

About Matt

Software engineer by trade; lay theologian by nature; Lutheran by grace.
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