Updated: Jul 24, 2022
“[T]hink of love as a state of grace: not the means to anything but the alpha and omega, an end in itself.” ― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
These are challenging times, my friends. It seems like we can’t catch a break. Natural disasters made worse by climate change. Political divisiveness. Economic uncertainty. And now, a global pandemic.
And you thought 2020 was going to be better.
By now I hope you’ve all gotten your toilet paper, your paper towels, bread and milk, medical supplies, and enough wine to sustain you through this crisis. Enough to keep you at home and away from public spaces until we get the “all safe” message from our medical professionals because science, my lovelies, is real. This thing is bad, and we need to do everything we can to slow its spread so that our medical personnel can take care of the most vulnerable of our society. This isn’t a “left” or “right” issue. It’s a global health issue that should give us all pause and a reason to consider how we’ve been treating each other over the last decade.
The fact is we haven’t been caring for one another very well, and COVID-19 is revealing why that’s so very important in building a stable society. Consider, for example, the fact that millions of Americans will be in immediate crisis once schools, restaurants, and other public spaces are shut down. People who keep these spaces running are working by the hour. You don’t work, you don’t get paid.
We’ve made things worse by not creating a society in which love for one another drives our decision making. I hear people say all the time that the United States is a “Christian nation,” but I’ve yet to see any evidence that we actually act in any Christ-like way. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” If we aren’t taking care of the most vulnerable in our society – and by that I mean the poor, the sick, the marginalized – then we aren’t following the principles of Jesus.
I’ve been an atheist for a long time now, but I am also the granddaughter of a Methodist minister. I went to Sunday School and church every single Sunday of my life up until I was about 30. I may not believe in the existence of a sky daddy who listens to prayers about my favorite football team, but I do think that the philosophy of Jesus is as good a way to live your life as any. Unfortunately, I don’t see this country doing much to honor Jesus.
COVID-19 gives us an opportunity to step back and consider how we might make some real changes in the direction this country is going. I don’t mean which old white guy is going to end up being our figurehead. I mean how we treat one another.
Do we really want to continue to live in a country in which a pandemic is political? In which a leader decides to withhold critical, life-saving information because he doesn’t want to affect his poll numbers? In which we fight over toilet paper? In which we defy the recommendations of medical personnel to because somehow now science is partisan? All this ire directed at people who are our fellow Americans is toxic, and it’s created a society in which we can’t even talk about how to protect “the least of these” because someone on the other side suggested it, and there’s no way we’re going to do what THAT guy says.
Love one another.
As you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
You must love your neighbor as yourself.
These aren’t just the messages of Jesus. They are the tenets of all great philosophies that teach us that we’re all in this together. No one gets out of this alive, but while we’re here, the least we can do it try to make it a little easier for our fellow human beings who are struggling just as much as we, often more than we.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s haunting novel Love in the Time of Cholera is about lovesickness, which is said to be an actual plague from which the novel’s protagonist, Florentino Ariza, suffers both physically and mentally. Ariza embraces his lovesickness throughout the novel, often using it as an excuse for behaviors that are less than savory. I would argue that we too are suffering from lovesickness, but rather from a lack of love. We have demonized those who disagree with us, isolated ourselves within cult-like belief systems, and scoffed at those who have suggested that compassion and empathy should guide us rather than avarice and greed. I’m not saying that our lack of love and compassion for one another created this deadly virus, but it’s been made worse than it should have been because of our profound mistrust of our fellow human beings and our inability to see one another as brothers and sisters.
Perhaps this, too, shall pass, and everything will go back to business as usual. But I hope not. I hope this is a wake-up call for a society that has spent the last few decades dismantling a social safety net that was designed to ensure that even the least of us is protected in some way.
As Marquez puts it, love is “a state of grace: not the means to anything but the alpha and omega, an end in itself.” I hope we work our way back to extending that state of grace to one another once this is all over. After all, “Humanity, like armies in the field, advances at the speed of the slowest.”