We may have charted all the continents on the planet, and we may have discovered all the mammals, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing left to explore on Earth. ~Nathan Wolfe

I will refrain from rehashing current events or their vast implications. Someone (I don’t know who) said it best when he, or she, stated that it is up to each one of us to decide how we will combat this thing. And of all the enormities we fear, the shadows lurking in dark closets or under our beds, the giant reptilian monsters in creature-feature movies, the worst diagnosis possible from the doctor … we most fear that which we cannot see. And right now, a very tiny organism, invisible to the naked eye but that’s said to resemble a crown, is our most formidable and mystifying enemy, one which is wreaking unprecedented havoc in our lives.

We weren’t prepared for this. Not even close. Unlike Europe, that suffered huge hits in both World Wars on a very personal level, we’ve been spared here in the U.S. We know nothing about mass famines, mass destruction, or national crises that bring us to our knees. The worst disasters are almost always regional, and the rest of us who are unaffected grieve from afar.

Let’s just say this is our wake-up call. Did we think we’d go unnoticed forever by those powers that determine where the catastrophes will drop? The invisible enemy we face now does not recognize topographical or societal boundaries. It goes anywhere and everywhere on its own whims. And many of us are, unwittingly or otherwise, helping it along.

A tsunami can wipe a coastal city out in a matter of minutes. A massive hurricane can decimate another, bombs can take down skyscrapers, and tornadoes erase entire communities. But this? It has the potential of wiping out our way of life as we’ve known it, and have taken for granted, for too long. Yet, it is doing all this without exhibiting a single visible sign of its presence or without making a single sound.

For that reason alone, it deserves respect … that such a tiny innocuous thing has the ability to bring an entire world to its knees.

One of the more confounding aspects of this current pandemic is that it is likely to have evolved in a purely organic way. The same force, the one we call Nature, that colors our world in beauty, is the very same that produced this. So how do we Nature lovers — and we are many — confront and deal with this unimaginable truth? How do we juxtapose the force that gives us birds and trees and flowers and animals against the fact that it can also produce something so deadly to us?

The simplest answer? We can’t, and we shouldn’t. To love Nature, to understand it and fully accept it in all its beauty and power means that we must also acknowledge its dark side. Of course, Nature doesn’t consider it dark. That’s an attribute we humans assign those parts of it that we find unpleasant, like wild animals tearing each other apart or a mother bird abandoning her defective young. And as numerous as we are, our brains cannot begin to fathom the numbers of microorganisms in existence at all times and from which all life, including us, issued.

The best and most realistic approach is to accept that the tiny organism that is besetting us these days is only one of millions. They have always been with us and will always be with us. Unlike birds and sunflowers, they don’t exist for our pleasure. Even the most learned microbiologist would say that there is much they still don’t know about those tiny things that are capable of so much damage on a human scale.

So while the experts tirelessly continue their endless tasks of teasing all this out and of finding ways to mitigate this scourge, all we can do is make the existence of those viruses and bacteria a part of our thinking, accept the fact that, out there in all that beauty, they exist just waiting to be activated by whatever triggers them, and never for one minute let our guards down. Nature is giving us the perfect opportunity right now to learn that potentially painful yet valuable lesson. We should all be paying attention. Because if there’s a quiz tomorrow, it’s one that none of us can afford to fail.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: