Aren’t we all just afraid?

The Church Fathers (I want to say it was Gregory?) describe the Fall as human beings becoming subject to their animal nature. We are the only things in the universe that are both Spirit and Animal (or physical) in nature. When we lost our way, our spiritual selves was made subject to our animal selves.


If you get my poor explanation this is not so hard to believe. We, all of us, are capable of high-highs and low-lows. As Solzhenitsyn tells us, “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” When the pressure is on and we are unaware or unable to access the things of the Spirit, we cave and begin acting like cornered animals. This manifests itself in different ways because we are novel creatures. Some people furiously tap on their phones, finding someone to blame; others will raid the grocery store and stock their fallout shelters; some may hunker down and load their guns and await the end of the free state; many become part time conspiracists.

If you can’t tell yet, I’ve been disappointed in our response (as humans, but Americans especially) to COVID-19. I do generally expect people to mess up and do the wrong thing, but somehow the last month has been like my favorite sports team suddenly having a terrible season when they have all the skills they need to win. All the fear and control-mongering creates a climate that is damaging to the whole. As a teacher, I feel especially frustrated that some of my colleagues are caving to anxieties and thereby creating a school environment that causes students to experience fear rather than safety.

The fact that otherwise reasonable people resort to calling the virus a bioweapon, despite evidence to the contrary, or that it’s a mutant zombie pathogen, despite that it appears (at least right now) to be less deadly than the flu virus, points to something greater in us. Our pathos, our deep sense of existential dread, our genuine lack of control perhaps means we have within us the lingering presence of deep, horrible fear. We exist in perpetual, spiritual poverty, beaten down without end by our broken selves, and we take every opportunity we can to push that unutterable feeling aside so we can function.

Right, we don’t know the full deal with the Wuhan coronavirus. It could be the apocalypse. It could also prove to be another SARS or Zika that will leave the world relatively untroubled.

Repression may be the greater pandemic. We keep our fears and worries down in the name of functioning in polite societies, those of us who are able to anyway. But those feelings come out sideways, perhaps when we weep over a sporting event or when we seek to justify plain old fear with fear of the “deep state.” In truth we don’t take care of ourselves until we have to, and then we’re not capable of taking care of ourselves in a healthy, regenerative fashion. It’s triage and not ministration and I’m the worst of us all.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go wash my hands.

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