HUMANIST CORNER April 2020
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Albert Einstein
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but in building the new.” Socrates
As these words are being written the Corona casualty numbers are swelling geometrically day by day. Judging from past trends, many of us find soothing comfort in ancient, Chinese thought. Humanism seems in many ways an extension of Taoism, centuries before the Western Messiah arrived. We watched the massive Chinese reaction to the virus that seemed to dim the division between regimentation and discipline! We might even be pondering that distinction in our own secluded state. Doesn’t teamwork melt away without discipline? It’s also fascinating the Chinese ideogram for “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.
When in history have we ever arrived at such a teachable moment? If ever! In 1817 French writer Andre Gide wrote a little book titled “Les nouretures terrestres” (“Fruits of the earth”) in which he and Nathaniel, a mystical companion, stroll through a breathtakingly beautiful garden. In thoughts that seem to sing off the page, together they ponder the meaning of life. No conclusions of course, but the language is melodious and drips with meaning. If there was a conclusion it was their unshakable commitment to living.
Along those same lines, but much less exquisitely expressed, I send out occasional “bulletins” to our grandkids, hoping to usefully guide their footsteps on life’s journey. Here are three of those recommendations. Perhaps one size may fit all these days:-
(1) Always strive to be creative.
(2) It’s vital to land on your feet.
(3) Dig deeply to uncover what makes you tick, but never fear change.
There probably aren’t two better models for our times than two young women named
Greta and Malala. They get it! They’ve seized the moment. That precious moment called TIME. A value we’re all surely discovering now! My last message delivered from the U.U. pulpit dealt with this – our only commodity of true value. How it might convert into a new basis for economics. But that’s another story-
For now there are five central lessons we can take from the pandemic :-
(1) Listen to the scientists.
(2) Governments must act out rapidly in crisis.
(3) Emergencies require massive investments in infrastructure.
(4) Invest in displaced and vulnerable communities.
(5) We have to take collective action.
Over the years our library discussion groups have danced around many issues of danger, both imminent and long range, to our species. Topics ranging from community to continents, but falling far, far short (understandably so) of the range and depth of change confronting us today. Homo sapien, the thinking animal, able to visualize what’s beyond the hill, caught flat-footed. Of course! Even the biblical “This too shall pass” and “We’re all in this together” phrases have almost become clichés. Another favorite of mine. As our collective brain huddles down in shelter, I truly believe when we reach the other side of this, humankind may finally realize our potential as stewards of this beautiful, blue island drifting in space and all its creatures.
Except for that damned COVID 19 bug! Be safe, not too fearful and thoughtful…
HUMANIST CORNER April 2020