Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner January 13, 2022
Even as we keep on struggling day-to-day in this seemingly never-ending pandemic, we must also begin to converse on the subject of just what its three-year-long effects have been on the human. Are we changing?
I have been seeking wise people with a broad grasp of conditions on our threatened planet, and a deep knowledge of history, including the history of plagues.
My son in B.C., knowing the intensity of my search, came through again, introducing me, virtually of course, to sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Yale University in the States. I must be moving in the wrong circles, because I had never heard of him, though he is listed by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the 100 greatest global thinkers today.
Other than a poet, a good sociologist is really the person to consult. He or she spends life looking at society, especially during and after a wholesale shock or trauma.
This plague was declared on March 11, 2020, and has led to massive global loss: in lives, (at about one percent of those infected), in livelihoods, routines, connections, liberty and much else. Still, he says, it has been small compared to past pandemics of cholera, smallpox and bubonic plague, largely because of “the tremendous progress in vaccines over the last 200 years.”
Christakis’ ideas are now available in a book, “Apollo’s Arrow,” and through talks on YouTube. Oh, and he has a medical degree from Harvard.
Of Greek ethnicity, Christakis finds insight in the story of Apollo, an ancient deity and archer, who is young and handsome, the son of Zeus, usually seen with a golden bow and silver arrows. He shoots ambiguously, sometimes sending illness and sometimes healing it.
There are three periods in a pandemic: the before-period, the present period, that of “full epidemiological weight,” which Christakis predicts will end in 2022, when we have herd immunity and “everyone is either vaccinated or infected.” Then comes the after-period, the “clean-up-the-mess time” from 2022-2024.
In the present time, fear, denial and anxiety are so high that many people cannot take in valuable information. Political rhetoric can have more impact on people than scientific evidence. We have local purveyors of this.
Becoming philosophical, Christakis says that a plague prompts a deep, new search for meaning. People question the status quo. They think about meaningful occupations. Applications from the young to health training institutions are way up. Capitalism, as the “natural way the world works,” is itself now under critical scrutiny. Maximum profit does not in itself bring health. Religious attendance is down in Canada, but prayer is up. Attention to mental well-being now focuses on emotions and relationships.
The wise among us counsel a commitment to vaccinating everyone everywhere. This is new international solidarity.
Peterborough musician and friend Katherine Carleton captured the mood perfectly when she said to me this week, “I am feeling sad about pretty much everything.”
Theatre director Randy Read cheered us both up when he responded, “When this darn thing is over, I am going to hire Market Hall, and the first dance is going to be everybody grooving to Henry Mancini’s Baby Elephant Walk.”
See you there!
Those folks who are having new babies demonstrate, against all odds, their faith in the future. Taking my part in this project, I’m launching, not a baby, but a book.
On January 23 at 4 p.m. EST we will have a one-hour launch of “Gleanings.” That’s my new collection of 134 Examiner columns from 2018-2021.
Four fine readers, Yvonne Lai of the NCC, Colleen Crawley of St Peter High School, Greg Dempsey, the provincial Liberal candidate for June 2, and Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, former MOH tuning in from Edmonton, will pick a favorite column and read it. All will be chaired by Peter Laurie of Fleming College. All in under an hour.