People are talking about the “new normal”. It’s really the “old normal”
Here’s what I mean: Have you noticed the huge amount of genuine ignorance, ambiguity, contradiction and uncertainty regarding the pandemic?
Face masks don’t help. Everyone should wear a face mask now! There are going to be 2.2 million deaths in the USA. More like 60 or 70 thousand. There will be a more deadly second wave. No there won’t. Only old people who are already sick will die. I know a young athlete in his thirties who is gasping his last. This will disappear with the hot humid weather. It will come back even stronger in the fall. You can get it from sneezing and coughing. Just wash your hands a lot. No, the virus lives on surfaces for days. You can get it by touching the home delivery packages. Calm down, the chances of getting it are remote. Are you kidding? You can get it just from breathing the same air as someone who has it, but doesn’t even know he has it! The projections are looking pretty good. Let’s get back to work. The restrictions are working. If we relax them this thing will bounce back and kill millions. Let’s prepare the hospitals for the rush of victims. The field hospitals are being dismantled and the hospital ship sent home. They didn’t need them. Let’s ramp up to make thousands more ventilators. We have enough already and they’re not that effective anyway. We live in the country where the population is not so densely living together we’ll be alright. That just means the disease will last longer and eventually be spread much more widely. Everybody needs to be tested to see who has the antibodies and who hasn’t. The tests are unreliable. There are both false negatives and false positives. We need a vaccine against this thing. Vaccines are dangerous in themselves and are not 100% effective.
The point I’m making is that we simply don’t know enough about the virus, and because we are such control freaks we don’t know what to do. We take it for granted that through technology, health care, insurance policies and a buoyant economy that we can solve all problems, control all threats, avoid all risks and build a safe, secure, comfortable, wonderful life. When disease happens we can cure it, and when death finally does come we whisk the body away neatly dispose of it and have a neat and tidy “celebration of the person’s life”.
But now there is a “new normal” and the new normal doesn’t simply have to do with a new economic and political reality. At its very heart the new normal is, in fact, the old normal. The “new normal” is the fact that we are all learning to live with that, at any moment, seemingly out of nowhere, we may develop a cough and a fever and in a matter of hours be struck down with a life threatening disease. We won’t know where we got it. We won’t know how we got it. We may do everything we know to remain healthy and build up a good immune system, but still you’re hit with it, and the fact is, you might die.
This is not the “new normal” this is the old normal. This is the way most of humanity for the vast majority of history in the whole world have spent their lives. Furthermore this is the way most of the people alive in the world today live their lives. For most human beings in most places in the world in every time period, life was short, dangerous and fragile. At any moment the barbarians might sweep down like wolves on the fold. Plague, natural disaster and calamity might destroy everything in a moment. The joy of a woman’s pregnancy was mingled with the real possibility that she might die giving birth. Horrible diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, smallpox and measles ravaged humanity and people not only died, they died after a long, agonizing and terrible disease. Murder, war, revolution and counter revolution destroyed livelihoods, homes families and took millions of lives.
After we get over the initial shock and our economy is shaken to the roots we will struggle back to the “new normal” which is the old normal. It is very possible that a second or third wave will hit our frail human race. As we get back to work we will be struggling to establish a new way of life–a way of life which is now the old normal–a way of life which, in fact, has always been true but we constructed a wonderful fantasyland where we could push it all to one side. Now, however, we are strong and smart. We will learn to accept that in this life we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. We will learn to live with this truth: that life is fleeting and always has been, that life is fragile and always has been, that life is short and always has been.
If you know me by now you will know that beneath it all I am an optimist–not just your run of the mill cheerful guy, but a deep optimist–because I believe in the overwhelming power of the providence of God. He is at work in the world and he is always doing a new thing and always bringing good out of evil. That’s what he does. That’s his business. That’s how he’s made. That’s who he IS.
What will we learn from the new awareness of life’s fragility? That life is Good. That all life is good. Death and disease of all kind is bad. I would not be surprised if the abortion industry, for example, simply begins to fade away. In the face of sudden death and waves of disease and death why have more death? It won’t make sense to people at a very deep, intuitive level. With this new awareness of life’s fragility I expect a new revival of religion. I think people will have been drawn up short and will take a new look at what really matters. We will treasure what life we have and what friends and family we have because they may not be here very long. When we say good bye to our loved ones we may have at the back of our mind that the next news we have of them is that they are reporting some dreaded symptoms and that they may soon be on the very verge of Jordan.
If I am right and the “new normal” which is really the old normal comes to us, then may the Lord be with us and walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death as he has promised, for in the end, he is the Lord of heaven and earth. He is the victor over disease and death. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and if he was there at our beginning may he also be there by grace, at our end.