Keeping the faith during a pandemicPerhaps this is what keeping the faith means: to believe that this period will end and we will survive to build a better world.
During this time of pandemic, what does staying alive mean? Not merely breathing, surely? Breathing keeps the body going but how about the soul? The cogito ergo sum of Cartesian philosophy.
When Descartes posited his famous phrase, many struggled to understand it. It never dawned on them that the fact that people think was the kernel of existence. But Descartes must have thought it through. What is it that proves we are alive? It is that very faculty to think that keeps us going. It’s the reason we believe that when the body dies, the soul surely lives on. That’s worth remembering in a pandemic that challenges us to stay alive.
There are great examples of the aged members of the population learning and continuing to grow. Old men who take degrees when they are already grandfathers. It is said that Plato learned Greek at the age of 90 to read Socrates. How far that is true one doesn’t know but what is true is that we know much Socratic wisdom through the pen of Plato.
Then there is the power of the pen. “It is the pen gives immortality to men.” Perhaps that is true. Did Shakespeare ever dream that half a millennium down the line people would still quote him? What made him special? He was a one off, someone who looked at the world in a different way. Until today he has not been bested. An example of ‘cogito ergo sum’ if ever there was one.
Not to say there were not other great writers. But they all seemed to copy his themes. Whose themes did he copy? One wonders.
The great literature of the ancients all seemed to be about journeys.
The Iliad that brought a thousand ships to the gates of Troy and the Odyssey that deals with the journey back. Then there is the Aeneid about Aenias leaving a burning Troy to eventually found Rome. These are the stories from which western history is based, from which it begins. Without the pen we would never have known.
As we traverse the globe, we can see that there were other great journeys. The Mahabharata tells of the great battle and the events leading to it. Is it a coincidence that that too began with the dishonouring of a woman? One has often wondered whether the Fall of Troy and the great battle of Kurukshetra are not about the same battle fought by our Indo-European ancestors before they divided into Eastern Aryans and Western Aryans.
There are so many similarities. Both have a hero hesitating to fight. In the Trojan War it is Achilles and in the Mahabharata it is Arjun. Achilles of course is refusing because of anger, Arjun because he is wary of fighting his kin. They have similarities one believes. Both are bisexual.
The message that comes through both epics is the same:
“War is futile, but war is inevitable and it is the duty of the warrior to fight.”
This message remains with us today. Politicians always have an explanation for ‘just wars’.
So we keep the faith through the millennia. Even now we keep the faith because it is the ‘cogito ergo sum’ of our very existence. Will there ever come a time when mankind doesn’t believe that staying alive means annihilating everything else, when pride is not always put before kindness and humanity can live in peace?
Perhaps that is not meant to be. Perhaps it is intended that we annihilate everything and finally ourselves. Perhaps the pandemic is that final chapter on the human race. We haven’t even survived as long as the dinosaurs and look what happened to them!
We have always believed that ‘man is the measure of all things’, but perhaps that very arrogance will finish us. Still we keep the faith and perhaps this too will pass. After all Rome wasn’t built in a day and we have to believe that we will live through this pandemic to build again.
After all, our ancestors survived through the fall of Troy and the Mahabharata. What could have been more earth shaking than these great wars? Yes, there have been others, but think of the population at the time and the weapons at their disposal. Think because it proves we are still keeping the faith and ready to meet whatever comes.
It is perhaps that shred of pride in our ability to think. But surely all animals think? Unlike us however they lack the power of the pen. No doubt they do communicate but do they record? Like the Neanderthals they probably rely on memory passed down to keep their wisdom. But we don’t have to. From the moment we stood upright and then wrote the first eternal ‘Om’ we have managed to relay our thoughts, our faith from generation to generation whether we remember or not. It is worth bearing that in mind. Not only that ‘cogito ergo sum’, but that the thinking stays with us from generation to generation whether we remember it or not.
This is surely what keeping the faith means. Faith that this period will end and we will survive to build a better world. Had we not believed that time and again we would never have got this far. We have to keep the faith. After all it is written is it not; “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end?”
We have to keep the faith, faith that we will fight through, just as our ancestors fought through those times in the past. We had ancestors who were fearless, perhaps more fearless than we are today. The ‘cogito ergo sum’ in our genes leads us to believe that there is a way out.
So keep the faith, friends. It’s kept us before and we have to believe it will do so again.