Monday, March 16, 2020

Pandemics and Quarantine

What an interesting time in which we live.

I'm torn between writing about Shoghi Effendi's "Promised Day is Come" and the current pandemic spreading around the world.

Maybe I'll start with the current context, just in case you're reading this at some point in the future. How's that for optimism?

As of today, many places around the world have gone into quarantine mode, trying to stem the tide of covid-19, a new virus that is rapidly spreading throughout the world. It's in the corona strain of viruses, meaning it's related to the common cold, not the flu. But two things stand out with it. First, it's a new strain, so we have no natural immunity to it, yet, which is why it is spreading so quickly. Second, the death rate from it is reasonably high, all things considered, especially in those with compromised immune systems, or who are over 60.

In regards to it being related to the common cold, just to be clear, that is like saying a lung infection is related to a stuffy nose. While true, it can also seem mis-leading.

The current steps that are being taken to mitigate the spread of this new virus are to try and slow down the spread, not stop it. It is fairly obvious that it is spreading, and there's not much we can do about that. The only trick, now, is to slow down how fast it spreads. Why? So that the emergency medical systems are not totally overwhelmed. We already know that at least half of the population of the planet will contract this virus. As of this writing, about 7% of active cases world-wide require hospitalization, while 8% of closed cases have resulted in death. As you can see, this means that 92% recover.

The real issue, though, is to try and spread those 7% needing hospitalization out over time. I mean if 7% of the population of your hometown showed up at your local hospital needing a ventilator, there is no way your system could handle it. And this is not even counting all the regular issues that hospitals have to deal with, such as heart attacks or births.

So today, many communities are staying home, and minimizing social contact, which makes the upcoming celebration of Naw Ruz quite interesting.

Oh, and for those who are confused about what it is called, it is covid-19 not corvid-19, as I have seen many write. Covid is an abbreviation of "corona virus identification", 19 referring to the year in which it started, while corvid is related to crows. This has nothing to do with a gathering of crows, which, incidentally, is called a "murder", nor does it have to do with a beer from Mexico that is best served with lime, the fruit, and not Lyme, the disease, and which Baha'is are not allowed to imbibe, the beer, not the fruit, and we also try to stay away from the disease, like covid-19. I hope that clears it up.

So, given the death rate, and the contagion rate, am I scared? Nope. Not at all.

Am I concerned? Of course.

People are panicking, and there will be many deaths in the near future.

But overall, I think this is a good thing, for it gives us a taste of how to prepare and react to a more deadly pandemic. This is a test of our health-care systems, our safety protocols, and how well we follow our mother's instructions to wash our hands before we eat.

Aside - I can't believe that I didn't put any of the above as an aside, but there you go. Anyways, the recommended way to wash your hands is with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you recite the medium obligatory prayer three times per day, the first part is to recite the first paragraph while washing your hands.
Strengthen my hand, O my God, that it may take hold of Thy Book with such steadfastness that the hosts of the world shall have no power over it. Guard it, then, from meddling with whatsoever doth not belong unto it. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Powerful.
This, incidentally, takes about 20 seconds. Coincidence? Hmmm.

To sum up, we are currently experiencing a global pandemic with a low to medium mortality rate, and this is forcing many communities to come up with new ways of celebrating Naw Ruz, such as a teleconference or much smaller family gatherings.

It is also heightening the sense of receptivity in many places around the world.

In Italy, for example, where the people have been quarantined for over a week already, the Baha'i youth and junior youth are being of great service to the elders, who are requiring much assistance. They are engaging in many conversations, offering service, and beginning many new activities within the scope available to them under these circumstances. The stories are truly uplifting, and many thanks go to the Regional Baha'i Committee of Northern Italy, who has shared these stories with the world.

It is as 'Abdu'l-Baha said, "When calamity striketh, be ye patient and composed. However afflictive your sufferings may be, stay ye undisturbed, and with perfect confidence in the abounding grace of God, brave ye the tempest of tribulations and fiery ordeals."

By patiently continuing on with what we are doing, with the education of children, the spiritual empowerment of the junior youth, the studies with the youth and adults in our communities, service to all who are in need, and community-wide prayers, all in a manner in which current circumstances allow, we attract the attention of those around us. As the Guardian wrote, "Self-sacrifice, courage, indomitable hope and confidence are the characteristics they should show forth, because these very attributes cannot but fix the attention of the public and lead them to enquire what, in a world so hopelessly chaotic and bewildered, leads these people to be so assured, so confident, so full of devotion? "

So perhaps this is what I really wanted to mention today. Most of the world is focused on the message in the first few paragraphs of The Promised Day is Come, scared, lost and hopeless.

They are becoming more aware of the warnings in those opening lines:
“The time for the destruction of the world and its people,” Bahá’u’lláh’s prophetic pen has proclaimed, “hath arrived.” “The hour is approaching,” He specifically affirms, “when the most great convulsion will have appeared.” “The promised day is come, the day when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your feet, saying: ‘Taste ye what your hands have wrought!’” “Soon shall the blasts of His chastisement beat upon you, and the dust of hell enshroud you.” And again: “And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake.”

But it is the closing lines to which we, the followers of the Most Great Name, must keep our focus:
Not ours, puny mortals that we are, to attempt, at so critical a stage in the long and checkered history of mankind, to arrive at a precise and satisfactory understanding of the steps which must successively lead a bleeding humanity, wretchedly oblivious of its God, and careless of Bahá’u’lláh, from its calvary to its ultimate resurrection. Not ours, the living witnesses of the all-subduing potency of His Faith, to question, for a moment, and however dark the misery that enshrouds the world, the ability of Bahá’u’lláh to forge, with the hammer of His Will, and through the fire of tribulation, upon the anvil of this travailing age, and in the particular shape His mind has envisioned, these scattered and mutually destructive fragments into which a perverse world has fallen, into one single unit, solid and indivisible, able to execute His design for the children of men.
Ours rather the duty, however confused the scene, however dismal the present outlook, however circumscribed the resources we dispose of, to labor serenely, confidently, and unremittingly to lend our share of assistance, in whichever way circumstances may enable us, to the operation of the forces which, as marshaled and directed by Bahá’u’lláh, are leading humanity out of the valley of misery and shame to the loftiest summits of power and glory.

We may not know what is coming in the next few months or years, but we know where it is going. And we have the guidance of the World Centre to help us keep to the path that will get us there.

Today, it is a minor pandemic, with a relatively low mortality rate, but we can already see countries coming together in unity and compassion to help each other out. What, we may wonder, will the next trials bring?

No comments:

Post a Comment