Turning the Page

Is COVID-19 An Invitation To Check Our Wisdom?

August 10, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage through our lives, but perhaps simple wisdom could save the world. The most important thing is people.

In January, I could see that it was going to be war. It was going to be a battle for our lives.

This was the attitude I had to have about the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the enemy was unseen to the naked eye.

Perhaps my realization was strengthened by having just read a biography of Sir Winston Churchill (The Character and Greatness of Winston Churchill: Hero in a Time of Crisis by Stephen Mansfield). Still, I knew that the world was about to experience a war that would test everything and everyone.

Some questions came to mind.

  • Would leaders lead with humility and resolve?
  • Would people listen to their leaders?
  • What political structures will be revealed as flawed?
  • Which leaders would prioritize dollars, politics, and the economy before the health of people?
  • Will we love our neighbor as we love ourselves?
  • Who will be wise but quickly forgotten?
  • Who will be unwise and be remembered forever?

You can answer those questions yourself.

The poverty of wisdom in COVID-19

Today I read these lines from musician Bruce Cockburn.

Every day in the paper
you can watch the numbers rise
No such event can overtake us here,
we’re much too wise.
Radium Rain – Bruce Cockburn

I thought, ‘Wow, this so describes our times’.

Numbers of deaths on the increase, but still some people think that they’re ‘much too wise’ to be vulnerable.

I watched a protest march on T.V. the other night. Thousands of people angry about losing some of their rights.

They were being forced, by law, to wear masks in public places. It seems that they considered themselves ‘much too wise’.

By the way, ‘Radium Rain‘ was written by Bruce a few days after the Cheynoble explosion back in 1986, and he was pointing out to the west the foolishness of thinking that a Chernobyl event could never happen in their backyard.

There is an arrogance in the heart that demands personal rights without considering the responsibilities of being human in a community with others.

The kindness of a mask 

A self-centered view of life says that the mask is to prevent contracting the virus from other people.

It’s all about me—an addiction to the self.

Incurvatus in se’ – turned/curved inward on oneself.

Whereas a community-centered approach sees things differently

A community-centered view of life says that the mask might prevent others from contracting the virus if I unknowingly have it.

It’s about others. Compassion and thoughtfulness. Care and wisdom.

So we wash our hands, we use hand gel, we keep our distance, and we wear a mask because we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We lead by example.

Being a wise leader

You are a leader.

One of my all-time favorite Bible stories is the short story of a poor but wise man that saved a small city.

I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me:

There was once a small city with only a few people in it.

And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it, and built huge siegeworks against it.

Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.

But nobody remembered that poor man. 

So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” Ecclesiastes 9:14-16

Wherever you live, you are part of a small town. It could be as small as the group of people you live with—your family, husband, wife, flatmates.

Small as a tight community.

That’s where we start to be leaders and exhibit wisdom.

It starts in small places where we have personal control.

You, in your small town, have the power to make the difference. Leadership is influence, so you lead by example.

He Tangata.

We have a Maori proverb here in New Zealand.

He aha te mea nui?
He tangata.
He tangata.
He tangata.

What is the most important thing?
It is people,
it is people,
it is people.

Perhaps COVID-19 is a huge wakeup call to reassess our wisdom.

We think we are gods with our 21st-century modern technology and knowledge, yet we are mere dust.

If you want to beat COVID-19 you need to ask yourself this question ‘What is the most important thing?’ and I hope you say it is people, it is people, it is people.

It is your neighbor, your friend, your loved ones. You wear a mask for them.


Mental Health is ... knowing that the most important thing in the world is people.  He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • If you imagine you are better, holier, higher, more important to God than others, it is a very short step to justified arrogance or violence toward those others. Richard Rohr
  • Any spirituality that does not lead from a self- centered existence to an other-centered mode of existence is bankrupt. Brennan Manning
  • The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

Questions to answer

  1. Do you think the world as a whole sees themselves as ‘much too wise’?
  2. What is happens when we have an attitude of pride and arrogance?
  3. Who are the people, think the small town, you can lead by example?

Further reading

Photo by Pille-Riin Priske on Unsplash

Barry Pearman

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