A good friend of mine recently sent me a copy of some words by one of my favorite writers – C.S. Lewis. I have read most of Lewis’ works but was not familiar with the collection of essays called Present Concerns (1948) from which this selection was drawn. But it reconfirms for me why I am so fond of Lewis’ writings. Though published 72 years ago, I think it speaks with an absolutely fresh voice for us as we navigate the current COVID 19 crisis. Remember – in 1948 the atomic bomb was new. If you read this through a second time you might want to try substituting COVID 19 for the atomic bomb. At any rate, let me share with you what was shared with me.
“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. How are we to live in an atomic age? I am tempted to reply: Why – as you would have lived in the Sixteenth Century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; ; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents. In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors – anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
Some strictures are laid on us by the state and federal governments and I encourage us all to be as good citizens as our conscience allows – but those who are coming unhinged are only afraid of death – if not for themselves then for those they love – and the Bible has always assured us of what we all already knew – the mortality rate for life in the fallen world is 100% At present, the mortality rate for COVID 19 in the U.S is still under 2% and that is calculated only from those people who were sick enough to go to the hospital or worked in medical settings. The rest of us have not even been tested. I do not intend to make light of the crisis – but as Louis Lamour frequently put it – There is one thing certain about life – none of us gets out of it alive! Take reasonable precautions – but have a little perspective. And for those whose trust is in God – a little faith.