The End of the World. I Feel Fine.

“Bad news on the doorstep, I couldn’t take one more step.” That line from Don McLean’s 1972 smash hit, American Pie, sums up the current world condition quite well.

Today, there is such an abundance of bad news—corona virus, stock market meltdown, layoffs, quarantines, lockdowns, threats of martial law, etc., that anyone could be forgiven if it seemed that another step was impossible. Yet, life goes on, in spite of everything which appears to be destroying our accustomed and familiar way of life.

How do we go on, then? What changes will we need to make or be made for us? How will we adapt to those changes? What will be different in the future? These are all valid questions for which answers are needed and which everyone must seriously consider. There are a lot of things which we don’t know and can not answer, but there are some which require nothing more than common sense to understand.

1. You are in control of yourself and the way you respond to the situation around you. Maintain that.

2. Don’t panic or give into the palpable fear. Keep a level head about you. Stay calm. This alone will allow you to maintain some semblance of normality in your day-to-day living.

3. Don’t believe everything you read or hear, especially about the corona virus. There are so many conflicting stories, reports, “expert” opinions, and official declarations readily available that it is difficult to determine what is true and what is false. Use your own good judgment about what is best for you. Corona may be an existential threat. It may be much ado about nothing. Or somewhere in between, which I suspect, but I do not know where to draw a conclusion.

4. It is not the end of the world, especially as concerns the stock market and the economy. Humanity has experienced financial collapses like this before and survived. Somehow, someway, we will work our way through the current one as well and another generation will be born to carry on.

5. Keep a positive attitude. While the situation may seem disastrous (and disaster is likely to happen), it is important that we maintain a positive outlook about the future. Depression, anxiety, and fear will drag you down. Don’t allow your circumstances to get the best of you. Remember, you are in control of yourself and the way you respond to your situation.

With all that said, it is important that we face some truth honestly. Our world has drastically changed within the last few months and, in spite of all the talk about a return to “normalcy” once the Covid-19 pandemic subsides, it is quite sure that many things we took for granted yesterday will not be in place tomorrow. Things will be different, some dramatically, some less so, but the equation has had another factor introduced into it and the implications of that are still to be seen and worked out.

Get used to the idea that the old system we are familiar with is being dismantled and another one will be erected in its place. There will be major changes along the way, both positive and negative. One positive change we can look forward to is the willingness to rely more on ourselves and our families, neighbors, friends, our faith, and our local community. If this actually happens (I believe it will), we will learn to depend less on distant, authoritarian governments, large faceless corporations, and bureaucratic institutions to provide for what we need in our daily lives. We will also learn what is really important and what is not.

All of us are going to participate in this, whether we like it or not. We have the opportunity to assist in shaping the economy and society which will rise out of the carnage and destruction happening around us. Everyone can participate in bringing this about, wherever we are, by changing our attitude from “Somebody ought to do something!” to one of “What can I do to help?” Look around you. There is plenty to do. Find a place where you can make a difference and get to it. Start close to home, branch out from there.

A better world awaits.

Diabetes and Gun Violence: The way we treat disease.

As America grapples with the menace posed by mass shootings and (seemingly) random violence, it is worth noting that the phenomenon can be considered an indication that our society is sick. Sick, getting sicker, with no way to heal the body except for a dramatic transformation in the way we live. This is similar in scope to many physical diseases prevalent today, for instance, diabetes.

Think about the way modern society treats illnesses today. A person gets sick, goes to see a physician, gets a diagnosis, a prescription for a drug, an assurance that this will put her right, and goes home, trusting completely on the pill to cure the problem. Depending on the situation, the drug might or might not restore her to health. Quite often it only masks the symptoms.

In the case of diabetes, she contracts the disease, perhaps as a result of years and years of gorging herself on fast, junk food and a lack of exercise to work off the excess. There may be little or no attempt at all to lose the obesity or a change in diet to bring it under control. In situations like this, the medication is expected only to treat the symptoms by keeping the blood sugar at a tolerable level, but it is not meant to cure the underlying disease. It is essentially nothing more than a bandage over a hemorrhage.

(Note: Diabetes can be contracted by people who are serious about maintaining a healthy lifestyle through strict adherence to diet and exercise. This article is not meant for them. They have my respect and I wish them well.)

The approach to mass shootings is pretty much the same. Feed society on the idea that young men and women can join the military and shoot other people they don’t know. Feed society on Hollywood movies which glorify gun violence as a means of solving problems. Feed society on video games marketed to young children which depict gun violence as a pleasurable game. Feed society on the idea that if you wind up pregnant, you can make the problem go away by killing the unborn child. Feed society on the philosophy that all morality is subjective to the individual person and situation. Feed society on political divisiveness and hatred. Feed society on personal irresponsibility and refusing to teach children about the consequences of their actions or to hold them accountable from an early age.

I could go on, but you get the idea. These things (and many more unmentioned) are the junk food that America gorges itself on daily, year after year, decade after decade. Then, inevitably, when a symptom (mass shootings) shows up, address it by prescribing a treatment (background checks, red flag laws, gun restrictions, etc.) which have the effect of assuring the patient (society) that the disease (violent behavior) is being treated effectively.

This treatment, however, will have as much lasting effect as that of an obese, inactive person taking a pill to counter and control diabetes, while refusing to change her lifestyle in a meaningful, positive way. Modern medicine treats the symptom of the disease, but does not address the cause. So too with modern society.

An obese, inactive person can overcome diabetes by adopting a radical change in lifestyle. It will be difficult, but it can be done. It will require, not only the obvious changes in diet and exercise, but also the attitude of personal change—the idea that unless personal action is taken to correct the problem, nothing at all will change. Nobody else can do it.

So too with America. Because society is composed of individuals acting personally, society can be transformed by individuals changing their attitudes and lifestyles in meaningful and positive ways. It will take time. It will not be obvious immediately, but in the long run, it will be noticeable. And well worth it.

I can’t do anything about the random acts of violence which are perpetrated in society on a regular basis, but I can make the necessary changes to minimize and eliminate violence in my own life. This will require, first of all, a change in the way I think about myself, my relationship to other people, and my relationship to God. After that, it is simply a matter of living it out.