“Prosperity is a great teacher; adversity a greater.” – William Hazlitt
The average lifespan of a male in the U.S. is about 76 years. I’m 42. That means I have a bit over 15,000 days left assuming I live an average life.
Granted, several people on my Dad’s side lived long after 76. My grandfather, Robert, was something like 96 when he passed. My grandmother, Ruth, was well into her 102nd year. Her mom thought she was 100. She wasn’t – she as 99. She counted her birth as year one. At 100 years old, no one can or should really tell you differently.
I write this as the COVID-19 virus is breaking around the world. It’s surreal. We’re asked to stay at home: only travel for necessary things such as necessary work, food, getting outdoors. Over 20% of the United States is currently under this sort of order, and more are being asked each day.
This virus hasn’t mortally affected anyone close to me, yet. I don’t know if it will. However, around the world, there are significant impacts being felt with death rates well about 5% and more. It feels like a movie.
Seldom have the most recent generations of people in the U.S. experienced significant struggle. We’ve spent years in economic boom times. We’ve enjoyed quality infrastructure, healthcare, global crises that have occurred off-shore. Remember Ebola or 9/11? That was contained on a continent across an ocean, and 9/11 was nearly two decades ago.
Some of the greatest complaints about life I’ve heard from peers are the cost of their self-incurred mortgages, car payments, and school loans. I’ve heard that healthcare should be less expensive, that it’s difficult to eat healthily, it would be great if calories were *actually* free on Sundays, or that Olestra helped fat not process without also giving you the craps. Some people don’t even know what Olestra was…
I have a few friends who returned from military service but haven’t regularly heard people were super concerned that global war would break out and a draft would be called up. I haven’t seen soup lines, and it’s been many years since gas was out at the local gas station. College should be less expensive, healthcare should be free, stock prices should always rise, employers should pay more than they did last year, bodies shouldn’t age, people should always be nice and agree, and the list goes on and on and on…
So, perhaps it’s sobering and, shall I say it – necessary – that a pandemic of unknown proportions should sweep through the world. Perhaps it is good for us to have our attention drawn away from wanting our lives to be more and more amazing when they kind of already are. Maybe, for those of us who live in the United States, the land of opportunity, where we vote for decisions, have more money than most countries, enjoy supply chains that don’t fail, have clean water, stable electricity, don’t get invaded, have a legal system that endeavors to be fair …. maybe, we can get back to taking care of each other…
Struggle can bring focus. Mortality can bring focus. Maybe we can connect with one another as humans. Maybe we can care in new ways. Maybe the root of who we can be – people who long to love and be loved, accept and be accepted, will be seen more clearly.
Maybe we can get to know our neighbour? Maybe we can smile at a stranger? Maybe we can share? Maybe we can walk outside. Maybe we can dance in the rain?
Or, when the social distancing is done, maybe we’ll dance with each other.
Which brings me to something I hope will come from all this…
Too often, I’ve seen a nicely dressed woman, put together for an evening of fun standing on a dance floor begging for her man to come dance. At the table, the man sits shaking his head, grasping his drink in one hand and his pride in the other.
“Dance with me” she begs. Her eyes show her hope that he’ll stand up, put aside his shame, and walk calmly, confidently, to the dance floor. She wonders if everyone will see him coming to her, taking her by the hand.
Countless times, the man remains wrapped up in some internal struggle – mind twisted on itself. “I can’t dance,” he says. He turns away awkwardly sometimes even sitting alone. Sad.
Of course, you can’t dance. You refuse to practice. Get up! The woman who agreed to keep bringing you places wants you to dance. One more opportunity lost.
I don’t know what this virus will do to us. But, the struggle, the sitting alone, the changes to our normal routines, may help us see through to the things that matter more dearly to us. Maybe a view of our own mortality will help us see the opportunities to be human with one another and inspire us to take them.
I don’t like to struggle, and I don’t want to. And, I want all the benefits of living in a great country – education, healthcare, jobs, and all that go along with that. I want to think critically, to inspire, to bring about positive changes.
But, moreover, I want to see us be openly human, and I never want to lose sight of living.
John Wooden remarks, “adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.”
I want to dance. Maybe you can too – no one’s watching, much less admiring you, except the one asking.
And, I have about 15,000 more days – or less – to do it. What about you?