In 1624, the English poet, John Donne, wrote “no man is an island”, meaning that we are social beings, naturally connected with each other.
In the 1960s, the Canadian communications theorist, Marshall McLuhan, Professor of English at the University of Toronto became famous world-wide for his studies on the effects of mass media on thought and behaviour.
In 1964 or thereabouts he coined the term “global village”, encapsulating the idea that in the modern world, people are connected by easy travel, mass media and electronic communications such as television and the internet.
We now take for granted that we can watch events on the other side of the world in real time, we can connect with people anywhere, at any time through email and we can chat on skype.
In the global village, the sky is the limit or so we thought until the arrival of the coronavirus, COVID-19. Suddenly, our very connectedness, renders us vulnerable. We are told that social distancing must be the new norm if we are to avoid COVID-19. This does not come easily or naturally to us.
The World Health Organisation has declared a pandemic. COVID-19 is more than a health crisis on a universal scale. It affects national and the world economies, industry, travel, education, sport every human activity. Those tested positive for the virus are quarantined, contacts must self-isolate and all of us have to step up our hygiene to prevent transferring the virus. We are forced to recognise that we are keepers of our brothers and sisters.
Sadly the pandemic has brought out the worst in some as panic buying and hoarding strip supermarket shelves. Fear can cause us to do terrible things, regardless of the needs of others. We are being brought face to face with our capacity for good or evil. We can embrace the Golden Rule, namely, we can do to others as we would that they would do to us or we can be driven by blatant selfishness.
In 2020 we are living day-to-day as TV screens bring the plight of the world into our living rooms. What lies ahead? The Persian Sufi poets had a saying: “This too shall pass”. Meantime, in the words of Pope Francis: “The future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a "you" and themselves as part of an "us." We all need each other.”
Soon we will celebrate Easter, the season of new life, of hope. As St. Augustine said in the fourth century: “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song”. Let us celebrate Easter 2020 in faith, hope and love. Alleluia!
Sr. Anne Henson