Certain kinds of stories transcend place and time. For example, did you know that almost every land on Earth has some version of Cinderella, long before they’d have heard them from each other?
One that seems to show up in every culture that existed around the ancient Mediterranean is of The Great Flood. You know it – that humans were so awful that God (or the Gods) flooded the whole world out, but one man was so good that he was warned in advance from above, and built a great ship on which he saved one member of every species of animal, along with his family.
Another sort of story we hear about is where God (or the Gods) test people, and punish or kill everyone who doesn’t give the right response. The Jewish story of the Passover might be the best known of this (due to exciting movies of it like The Ten Commandments!). In it, God sends a plague that kills the first-born of every family that doesn’t put a sign of devotion on their doors, but it ‘passes over’ the homes that do. Pretty harsh, huh!
Then there’s another sort of apocalyptic warning tale. It’s more modern, and showed up a lot in stories written after the invention of the atomic bomb. In these, either mankind learns from disasters to master its newfound power and move forward, or it doesn’t and is ruined (by those disasters), or it’s warned in apocalyptic terms of just how dangerous this new power is. In other words, the stories all have the same moral: “If we don’t learn how to stop fighting each other, we’re going the way of the dinosaurs!”
I was thinking about these three kinds of stories recently, when it hit me that we may be living through a fourth one – one that isn’t being written or filmed; it’s literally happening to us.
You see, odd as it may seem, we’ve actually survived the other ones. Whatever awfulness humans were doing before The Great Flood, it hasn’t been repeated, so you guys must have improved! And while horrible acts have been perpetrated on people for their faith over the last 2500 years, the world seems to have survived the vengeance of their deities.
And maybe most amazing of all, the human race, for all its flaws, has gone 75 years without using atomic weapons on each other. Pretty astounding when you think of it!
So I guess the overall moral here is that, slowly but surely, humans do learn their lessons. But there’s always room for growth, right?
Well, what about our current coronavirus apocalypse? Is there anything we can learn from it? It hasn’t decimated the entire world, or picked favorites based on ethnicity or faith. And it hasn’t created any devastating wars, yet.
Is this something completely new? Something promising to raise humanity to a higher level?
I argued in the last Pawprint about how sad and furious I was that people’s laziness and stupidity had allowed the virus to grow and spread for so long that it killed one of my favorite people. And yes, I’m still very angry about that.
But what if we look at it another way? What if the whole human race is being taught a lesson, one you need more than ever? What if it’s on purpose that this disease demands something all new from everyone?
Not to care for yourselves, or your families, or even all of humanity. But to care for “the other.”
So here’s the story I’m suggesting. A new fable:
One morning, the Great Dog in the Sky looked down at the world She had created, and said, “Humans have evolved well. They no longer do such unspeakable things that I need to eliminate them and start over, and they now treat other religions well enough that I don’t need to kill their children; and they’ve even shown some restraint in how they fight each other. But while they’ve improved in some ways, they have gotten worse in one. They are selfish than ever!”
And of course, She was correct. The growth in their intelligence and skills had made humans less dependent on their tribes, and more focused on themselves and those closest to them – to the degree of often not caring about anyone else. They figured “somebody” would take care of anyone in pain, and smugly assumed that any poor or destitute person must deserve it. They no longer were trying to eliminate everyone who was different from them, but they had not yet learned to truly love each other, in the way the world needed.
So She sent down a new plague. A plague unlike any before. This plague hurt or killed some people, but infected far more, without showing any symptoms. And once humans learned the basic facts about it, they realized something new – that the only way to beat the new plague would be to wear masks, keep distant, and keep clean. Not to protect themselves, but to protect each other!
At first, most humans didn’t grasp this concept. “But if I’m feeling okay, then I can’t be sick, so there’s nothing wrong with my going about my life as usual,” they insisted. But then bit by bit they learned. They went to a fun party and came home, and unintentionally infected and killed their grandparents. They took their daughter to a religious ceremony to teach them moral lessons, after which she gave her best friend lung damage for life. They screamed for their favorite team at a sports event, resulting in local hospitals filling their beds with patients on breathing machines, while other people died waiting to get let in.
And meanwhile, they also suffered the lack of everything they loved doing together. Restaurants and concerts and plays and movies and sports events. And even going to school. All of these got stopped because of the danger caused by people who didn’t know they were contagious.
And so, bit by bit, the people learned. They started acting as if they were sick, even if they were almost certain they weren’t. They politely gave room to those they were walking past. They wore masks even though the nasty things were uncomfortable and made their faces break out. They sanitized themselves before and after encountering everyone.
And even those who got vaccinated, guaranteeing them that they’d not be hurt by the disease, kept masked and distant and clean, in case they might carry the disease and spread it to others.
And as enough people learned to act in such an unselfish way, the Great Dog chose to reward them with a lovely treat: she started to take the virus away.
And slowly, just as the flood and earlier plagues had receded, the world began to re-open. Schools enabled youngsters to meet and play and grow together. Theaters and restaurants took people in to give them joy and sustenance. Gatherings increased, with embraces and jostling and mosh pits and fistfights – everything everyone had enjoyed before.
But with a new understanding.
You see, humans had been telling each other that the key to happiness was to treat others the way you wanted to be treated, to love your neighbor as yourself, for millennia. Now they learned the next level of that – that you have to actually take care of each other! Just wishing the other well isn’t enough.
And the world was better forever after.
Do you like this story? I do!
See, If a dog howls in pain, other dogs will join in and howl along with them. That’s our pack mindset. If a dog smells fatal illness in another, they might try to kill them, instinctively acting on the harsher side of our pack rules.
Where humans are heading is to another level. To say “It doesn’t matter whether I sense it or not, I need to alter my behavior for my fellow human. That’s the only way to have the world I want.”
In other words, the key to each person’s selfish desires is to act unselfishly! You want your job back? You want movies and concerts back? You want to start meeting cute attractive people in public again, so one of them might be all you desire? Then take care of the person next to you! Everyone needs to do just this! That’s the only way it can happen!
And that’s the lesson the whole world’s been getting taught for the past year. The sooner more people learn it, the sooner everyone gets better off. And the longer people insist on sticking to their old mindsets… well, you know.
Oh, but there are two aspects to my idea I’ve forgotten to include. First, this has actually been predicted. Not the stupid virus, but the place I like to think the world is moving. Astrologers and some religions have spoken for years about the Aquarian Age – an era that will involve mutual understanding, after the past era, the Piscean Age, of conquest and domination. Don’t look for one specific date; the idea is that we’re in a period of transition into it. Depending on where you read, this transition might take decades or it might take centuries! But every time people learn to think of others in their actions more, that’s a great step forward into it.
And the second aspect? Oh that’s the best part of the story. When the Great Dog in the Sky saw that humanity had learned and grown, she threw a great party up there – a party for all who had perished in this recent plague. And all of them felt pride about being part of this wonderful change, and sang and danced to all the songs they’d most loved in their times on Earth, and beamed down love on those still here below. Which led to them deciding that the song they wanted to dance to the most, regardless of their musical tastes, was of course…
So why not get up and dance with them! I do!