We will survive. Our species. Most of us will live. Too many will die. We will make it to the other side. But none of us will go untested. Unchallenged. Untouched and unmoved by this global pandemic. This is a test for humanity and it will redefine, in many small if not a few epic transformational ways. This season of illness and death will redefine what it means to be part of the human family. And how we respond to the other. Each other.
Being human together, connected beyond family or tribe, requires civilization. Covid-19 is a test of human civilization. We live in a dynamic thriving economy in this country but do we live in a dynamic thriving civilization? The test is out and the results are coming in. And when we see the truth in the assessment? We learn how to do better.
Ira Byock in The Best Care Possible: A Physician’s Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life (Avery, 2012) recounts a story about the scientist Margaret Meade and her definition of what makes humanity civilized-what constitutes a civilization.
“Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.
But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
'A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts', Mead said.
This week we retreat even more. Creating space for healing. We are civilized in our ability sacrifice for each other. To cooperate for the good of the whole. And to create an absence of our presence in society for something new to grow: healing.
We are responsible for each other. That is the basis of civilization. We uphold and love and mend each other. We leave no one behind. What is an economy without a healthy civilization? It is Mitzrayim, it is Egypt, slavery...it is hell. This is a test.
We sit tonight under the new moon of the first month of the year Nissan: the welcoming of Spring and new life. Healing is built into the foundations of reality. Love is built into the foundations of reality. So is renewal.
But civilization is human made and our own hands and heart and minds will be the determinant of our future. We got this. But it is going to be hard. So hold on. Keep ok keeping on. The only way out of this is through it. And on the other side-we will know better and do better by each other. We will change our ways.
May the angel of death pass over your home. May your home be a mikdash me’eat-a tiny sanctuary for the Divine to rest amongst us, in our own private intimate space. May we all walk together out of this Egypt towards the promised land: one in which all injuries, of body, mind or spirit, are healed through the loving and uplifting hands that constitute human civilization.