If there is an image that corresponds to the coronavirus crisis of our society, it would be that of the Diamond Princess cruise ship infected in mid-cruise. Before tragedy struck, it had every modern comfort and entertainment. The bands were playing, the theaters were full, the restaurants crowded, and its boutiques well-stocked.
The atmosphere was marked by fun and laughter without any worries. The ship was full of dazzling spectacle and gadgetry. An intense nightlife made sure there was always one more joke or one more dance to keep the party going. Passengers put aside their tragedies, misfortunes and problems to enjoy an almost surreal world of escape, unrestraint, and delight.
Then the Chinese virus appeared and changed everything drastically.
It was still the same ship. All its facilities were intact. Physically, it still contained every earthly delight. However, the party was over. This floating paradise became a hellish nightmare.
Breakdown of a System
The nation has long lived a surreal cruise ship existence. Outwardly, all seems fine and booming. Everything is done to give a festive veneer to life. The culture creates an atmosphere of fun, unrestraint and laughter.
Like the passengers in the cruise ship, many Americans put aside their tragedies, misfortunes, and problems to enjoy life to the best of their abilities.
Of course, life’s problems do accumulate. It has not been easy to act as if everything is fine. Beneath the surface, corrosive forces have been at work. Society is fractured by social, economic, and cultural factors. Economically, the country has reached a point of unsustainability. Politically, America finds herself stuck as polarization and strife make it difficult to get anything done. Many suffer from loneliness, unhappiness and stress inside the frenetic intemperance of daily life.
However, despite all these difficulties, the appearance of the party is what has kept America together. The band plays, the show goes on and everyone strives to keep the party going.
The Party is Over
The Chinese virus put an end to the party. It is now stopping America. The cruise is reduced to a massive ship full of people trying to stay away from one another. There are no more games, dances, or songs. The vessel is an increasingly immobile platform from which one can expect uncertainty, anxiety, and even death. The only difference in the analogy between the Diamond Princess and the U.S.A. is that no one can disembark from the ship that is America today.
And thus, the questions loom: What do you do on a cruise ship when the party’s over? How do you spend time isolated on its haunted decks? What do you think about while locked down in your cabin?
The nation is being forced to ponder these things. The findings may well determine the future.
Longing for the Party
One way people will pass the time is to cultivate longings for the party. Such passengers scheme about what they will do when things get back to “normal.” They will waste their time by trying to turn their isolation into little parties of lesser entertainments, games and pastimes, even while a few fellow party-goers perish.
Those in this group will experience great anxiety as time passes. They will begin to doubt if “normal” will ever come back. They will be the first to cry that not enough is being done to bring the party back. With each passing day, they will be disposed to give up more freedoms and control over their lives to the government in exchange for the promise of an ever-smaller party in the future.
Worst of all, these pleasure-seekers will not learn any lessons in this episode. They will not dare to question the wisdom of living in a never-ending party that takes its toll upon their souls and lives. For them, life and pleasure are the supreme values.
Those Who Question
Others will pass the time differently. In the quiet of the tragedy, these cruise ship passengers will reflect on what has happened. They will not waste their time in frivolous and useless pursuits. They want to restore health to those on board and take reasonable and commonsense measures to get a non-cruise ship up and running.
With each passing day, they begin to look critically at the party and reflect upon things that are greater than comfort and pleasure. In the process, they rediscover life’s true meaning in family, community, the nation, and the Church. They begin to imagine a return to order beyond the party’s frenetic intemperance. Amid their tragedy, they turn to God and seek His pardon and aid. The critical situation forces them to consider those essential life questions that modernity hid amid the din and noise of the party.
Amidst the Chinese virus crisis, America faces a choice: Either return to a smaller party or return to order.
Source: Return to Order
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