Finding the ‘Thing’ Of This New Season
By Patrick Winn
The first quarter of 2020 was a season unlike that which most of us have ever experienced. But our relatively short existence on this planet can make us all feel important. Our collective short attention spans demand scientific certainty when none is available. 
As a business executive once observed, when we want results, “instant gratification is not soon enough.”
We are impatient for “a return to normalcy,” an expression not even coined until the presidential election a century ago when Warren Harding called for putting the hardships and deaths of World War I behind the American psyche. It was the call to arms two years earlier that marshalled the extraordinary efforts of American soldiers to win a war that others began. 
Candidate Harding sensed the country wanted an end to the after effects of the “war to end all wars.” It’s a bit eerie, therefore, to hear the same yearning to “return to normalcy” language used in the current war against a virus that reminds us of the Spanish Flu from a century ago. This time it’s “flatten the curve” or some other catchy phrase. 
Rather than the normalcy of the ultimately failed Versailles Treaty, we now seek a return to the 21st century’s version of normalcy. But we are short-sighted. As we seek instant gratification, it is too easy to forget the lessons of the past century. The time between the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919 that ended WWI, and the rise of Nazism that led to WWII is nearly the same as the interim between the SARS outbreak of 2002 and Covid-19 in 2019. And during the first 35 years of the 20th century, the world experienced wars and economic depressions, and fought diseases such as tuberculosis and polio, mumps and measles. In the last 30 years we again encountered wars, economic recessions, and the new heartbreaks of AIDS, SARS, MEERS and Ebola. 
We have learned that societies and countries have relatively short memories. People plead for God’s mercy during the early stages of any war, disease and economic collapse, but forget the route to Church to say “thank you” when crises and killings end. Unlike Lily Tomlin’s observation that, “We’re all in this together; alone,” we have many with whom to share this pandemic even as we shelter in place or mask up and socially distance. Modern communication makes that not only possible but unavoidable. 
We can’t predict crises by cherry picking one pandemic per century to study. That is more like the artificiality of coincidences than discovering a divine plan. But whether our forecasting source is the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, singer-songwriter Pete Seeger, or folk-rock group The Byrds, this crisis reminds us that there is a time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap; a time to kill, a time to heal; a time to laugh, a time to weep. 
And a time for peace; it’s not too late. Let’s be safe out there as we discover what time this is.