What have we learned from COVID-19?

For I believe that this catastrophe should have taught us something about what is good and bad about life.

Image Credit: EET Asia

I have heard it said by many that after having gone through the experience of COVID-19, many of us will rethink the life we are leading and try to find something else. If this is so, why is it?

I have lived a long life—76 years at this point—and yet I can see that life is fleeting. Today is the day when the 100,000th American has died of this disease. We think. We’re not sure. It could be more than that. But this has been over a period of only four months. The total of deaths is twice the number of American lives lost in the entire Vietnam War in three years. And many of those who have died in this trauma were young, much younger than I am.

I sat on the couch in the living room and looked at a pillow. It had a face stitched in it. I recognized the face of my mother’s mother, Rose. And I realized that I was probably the last person to see that face and recognize it. The only other person on earth who might recognize it would be my brother, who lives far away. And perhaps a few cousins, who would never see it. Yet Rose lived a long life and died over 50 years ago. She had an impact on many people, and yet no one would know her today.

So our lives are short, however long they seem, and most of us are soon forgotten. Few of us are George Washington, or Martin Luther King, or Queen Elizabeth I.  And, as time slips by, even the greatest are not remembered.

Think of all those poor, poor men, who lived four years in the trenches of World War I, and then died in the last battle. They might have been Germans, or French, British or Americans. What did their lives matter, even if they had been among the bravest of the brave in defending what they were told was right?

And think of all the people, throughout the world, who have died in this latest pandemic. We do not know how many might have been saved had we, acting collectively through our governments, had taken more care for their health and the prevention of unnecessary deaths.

Many look even now upon the COVID-19 deaths and say this was normal, and just the part of normal life. But is it? Was there nothing which we, in all the learning we have accumulated over centuries, could not have done to save even some of them? A study has shown that 36,000 lives could have been saved if social distancing had started one week earlier. And doubtless it will be shown by year’s end that another 

1.7 million will die because we stopped social distancing too soon.

What is one life worth?  Or 1.7 million?

The answer to such questions lies within us all. For only we collectively can stop the activity—or the carelessness—which leads to such deaths. Had the Chinese government told us soon about the pandemic—and had we, once alerted responded sooner, for the benefit of ourselves and others—the number of deaths would certainly have been lower. Had lesser weight been put on the value of our economy and more on the value of our lives, social distancing would not have ceased when it did.

A life is worth only as much as we make of it. And generating more and more humans makes life more and more difficult for all of us. More and more of us destroy what nature gives us. Something as simple and necessary to life as a glass of water will become harder to find, because mankind by its numbers makes fresh water less easy to enjoy. “The problem is that most of the Earth’s water resources are as inaccessible as if they were on Mars, and those that are accessible are unevenly distributed across the planet. Water is hard to transport over long distances, and our needs are growing, both for food and industry. Everything we do requires water, for drinking, washing, growing food, and for industry, construction and manufacturing. With more than 7.5 billion people on the planet, and the population projected to top 10 billion by 2050, the situation is set to grow more urgent.”

We need to think and to care about other human beings.  We should stop the warfare on humans and increase the struggle against pandemics. We should devote our lives to creating as much happiness as our short lives will allow, and celebrate humanity as a whole and what we may accomplish for all of us.


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