It really is, you know.
Because the world after this pandemic isn’t going to be the same as the world before it. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I am certain it’s going to be different.
The word “apocalypse” literally means unveiling. In a way it should only be applied to a genre of literature, writing that, like the Revelations of St. John, reveals what is to come. Yet arguably, the author of Revelations didn’t see his text as a prediction of the future; he saw it as an unveiling, an expose, if you will, of the reality of the world he lived in. He was trying to say that that world belonged to God and the Lamb-who-was-slain, the victorious resurrected Christ, and not to Caesar. He was trying to tell his small, isolated congregations that their fearful house meetings for worship were participation in a celestial and cosmic liturgy that had no end.
Our current apocalypse is revealing a lot of things, some good, some ill. It is revealing how we really are all connected, via airplanes and other forms of transportation, via television and other forms of popular culture, via the internet and all its resources of information and news and social media. Those global interconnections mean someone can get on a plane in China and get off in the United States and bring a virus with them, yes; they also mean that I can communicate with friends who live in England or Italy, the Midwest or the West Coast, or even Australia. I think our global interconnectedness is good, on balance.
It’s also revealing just how much wealth, how many resources, are being selfishly hoarded by those who don’t need them, who are now reluctantly loosening their grip just a bit, now that the need is dire, and even if they are motivated less by genuine compassion and kindness than by the desire not to look like they actively desire people’s deaths. (Yes, I admit, I am thinking the worst of some people. Not going to apologize.) There are, of course, a few billionaires and world leaders who seem not to care if they do look like they want the poor and disenfranchised to die. I hope we remember who they are and what they did when this pandemic is over.
The pandemic is revealing that most people want to help their neighbors, that scientists want to solve problems and improve conditions, that artists want to share their work, that even introverts (like myself) need face-to-face, embodied human contact, that our animal companions are an even bigger blessing than we thought. The pandemic is revealing that a few, a very few people are genuinely selfish, caring only for themselves and what they can grasp–and they are outnumbered.
It’s the end of the world as we have known it. I am grieving the deaths, I am raging at the selfish bastards making it harder for the rest of us, but I am also tending and treasuring a tiny spark of hope because we can build a new world, and the hands that build it, the minds and hearts, will be numerous, more diverse, more creative than ever before.