The Plague-Ground: Daddy, tell me the one about the virus again.

Like you, I’m growing numb to the torrent of advice about how the world can/will/must change after the fog lifts. 

Looking at pictures then and now of Venice with its pristine canals and Delhi with its crystal-clear air, makes me say “Let’s keep it that way.”

Part of me yearns to Make Change Happen. The awful unfairness in much of our world is so rank that if we don’t change our entire way of life  there will be pitchforks in the streets. Maybe not here, but certainly in the U.S. whose divisions threaten Canada even more than its pandemic refugees will.

The other part of me says not much will change at all, except having to get to the airport four hours ahead of boarding my one hour flight to Ottawa. 

I remember in 2008 when the auto giants almost collapsed and Jean and I  seriously talked about turning in our car which we only used to get to the cottage. The automakers survived and our car still drives. Oh well.

But maybe this time really is different. After all, it’s the first calamity that’s severely upended pretty much all 8 billion of us and its economic fallout is already far worse than 2008. I mean, when Warren Buffett sells all his airline stock, you can only weep for the travel and hospitality industries.

One way to make sure things do change ‘for real, for good and forever’  is to heed the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” The lease on our car ends in December, so this time we’ll  consciously sit down and talk (something our enforced isolation is making us better at) and come up with a better way to drive to and from the cottage than having a car on call 24 hours a day.

That’s a tiny change. But 8 billion tiny changes can add up to at least a dozen game-changing ones. Like not warehousing our oldest, sickest citizens. Like listening to scientists, not soothsayers. Like Mandatory Sunday Family Dinners. Like that.

Another way is to read more history. There are parallels galore between then and now ping-ing across the ether. The best for me  comes from The Daily Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for Everyday Life. This is not a publication I’d normally turn to, or had even heard of. But last night, Mary-Owens Fitzgerald who, at 86 is one of the most modern people I know, sent it to me. 

It’s a piece titled “When the system breaks down, leaders stand up.” It’s not about Mr. Trump, though it could be. It’s the riveting story of  the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and “the Antonine Plague of 165 CE. It was a global pandemic with a mortality rate of between 2-3%.  It began with flu-like symptoms until it escalated and became gruesome and painfully fatal. Millions were infected. Between 10 and 18 million people eventually died.” 

But an even better way to make sure things do change when this is over is …….poetry. I know, I wasn’t expecting that either, even though we’ve both been told for years that in times of strife, what the arts have to say can save us.

But poetry? Really? 

Tell me, truthfully now, when was the last time you actually read some poetry… that wasn’t a rhyme to put your kids or grandkids to sleep?

Because  I have a double surprise for you.

Now that we’ve all dined on Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese and Pablo Neruda’s Keeping Quiet, here’s a bed-time story that’s worth the next four 4 minutes of your life to taste and savour. 

I wouldn’t have opened it,  but it came from Jean, so it suddenly became impossible not to. It’s written and performed and produced by a 26-year old  British Youtuber, Tom Roberts, who goes by the name of “Probably Tomfoolery”, and here, for you not to miss,  is The Great Realisation.   

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Get your tickets to the May 14th RamsayTalks Online with Jared Diamond, “one of the deepest thinkers of our time.” 

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11 thoughts on “The Plague-Ground: Daddy, tell me the one about the virus again.”

  1. Good morning Bob. How ever will you travel across this great country of ours, or across the mighty oceans, without some kind of vehicle? That is the conundrum for adventurers.
    The two poems, short story and piece about Aurelius touched a cord in my heart. Poetry, much side-lined, is a balm for the weary, the sad, the disheartened, the lovers, the elated. These were excellent options. I have a copy of Meditations beside my bed and will re-visit it tonight. The TomFoolery story is a keeper and I feel it might be shared with my granddaughter who at four and a half told her parents that covid-19 is something that is passing through and will move on one day soon. Aah, the things kids say.

  2. Dana Francoz

    Oh Bob, as always you hit the nail solidly on the head. Thank you for these so thoughtful blogs! I loved the Tomfoolery story. Sending a virtual hug to you and Jean

  3. Jennifer Jolley

    I am really enjoying your blogs Bob – they are a highlight of my day! I have seen today’s video but always happy to see it again and again – I am so glad you are posting it as everybody should see it! Hope the message sticks.
    Love to you and Jean. Jennifer x

    1. Thanks for connecting, Jennifer…we are safe and sound, high and dry on Thunder Beach. And keeping busy, especially with very long walks! Cheers. Bob

    2. Dear Parnasian Poetaster — These read like a blend of TS Eliot and Dr. Seuss. I’ll never look at you the same way again!
      Cheers from both of us. Bob

    3. Indeed….ah, the kids things say. I too fear the tragedy of it all will be lost on our grand-kids. Cheers and thanks for your daily connections.

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