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The Wise Ones of Covid Gubernia and the Wearing of Masks

Thursday, April 23, 2020 @ 11:04 AM
posted by Roger Price
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Covid Gubernia was an area in the Old Country. Between the harsh winters, the poverty, and the poor nutrition, the people were quite pallid, so much so that where they lived was sometimes called the Pale. And, yet, despite all of their challenges, they were a good people, with the dignity that comes from working hard and trying to live a decent life. For that alone, they were worthy of honor, or koved  in their old language.  (Some even say the name of the area was based on the word koved.)

Perhaps as a result of their worthiness, the people were blessed on occasion with Wise Ones, for which they were exceptionally grateful. Other towns claimed to have wise ones as well, and maybe they did, but the Wise Ones of Covid Gubernia were the wisest of the wise.

One reason Covid Gubernia had so many Wise Ones was that it welcomed thoughtfulness from many sources. In some areas, it seems, people only followed the words that came from their main village and would not heed the words from the countryside. Even sillier, some listened only to male voices, as if female voices had no wisdom to share. Because they never knew who would speak wisely until the speakers spoke, the ears of the residents of Covid Gubernia were open to wisdom from all sources.

Folks from other parts thought that the Covidians wasted a lot of time listening to many ideas. And, for sure, there was a fair amount of nonsense uttered from time to time. But the residents of Covid Gubernia managed to figure out who was trustworthy and who was a charlatan, who provided solid information and who was a fraud. So they revered the words of Hillel, Micah, and Nachman and the words of Yehudit, Golda, Tikva, and the Ruths, the notorious one and the not–so–notorious one. They could not imagine any other way, but listening broadly and carefully.    

As the world turns, from time to time, the people of Covid Gubernia would be infected by viral diseases that came, it seemed, out of thin air. Some such incidents were bad, and some were worse. (There is a minority view that suggests that the gubernia was named after one especially bad encounter.)

Naturally, there were those who did not think that any particular virus would last long or be particularly devastating. Others, however – at just the first whiff of trouble – thought that world as they knew it was coming to its end. For the residents of Covid Gubernia, here is where wisdom, and its partners experience and leadership, were helpful. The Wise Ones who lived and taught in Covid Gubernia over many generations did not always agree on their modes of reasoning, but they generally agreed on the actions to be taken. Their words proved valuable by bringing guidance, protection, and relief.

Yehudit, the Table Setter, created the scene: When we all care for the sick and the weak and the old, when we cherish life’s creatures, when we all live in harmony with one another and the Earth, then everywhere will be called Eden once again. More pragmatic and precise, Hillel, the Teacher, said: Do not treat others as you would not want them to treat you. Do not breathe on to others as you would not want them to breathe on to you.

Golda, the Governor, provided the alternatives: It’s not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived. Do not scatter germs. Instead, love your neighbor and the stranger that passes by you.

Micah, the Seer, tried to capture the lesson with an epigram: People: you have been shown what is good and required: simply to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your masks. Tikva, the Scholar, drew a lesson from herstory: Like Deborah, raise up the swarm for battle, protect the hive. Wear masks! But Ruth, the Notorious, dissented: Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade. Be calm and wear a mask.

Nachman, the Restorer, attempted more perspective: All the world is a very narrow bridge. The important thing is not to be afraid, then maintain physical distance, and wear a mask for a while longer. And the final word went to Ruth, the Not–So–Notorious, who said: Though we are not alike in mind or body, somewhere in the depth of our souls we know that we are the children of one people. We are, then, responsible each for the other. For the sake of Heaven, if not our species, and for the sake of our species, if not for Heaven, have some respect. Wear your masks.

They were, of course, all correct. These and those are words by which to live. And isn’t that the point? When facing a virus crisis, isn’t the responsible thing to do that which best preserves life?

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