I normally post a book snippet on Saturday mornings. However, today, in the light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, I'm going to put up a podcast instead. I'm obliged to reader Robert R. for sending me the link to the video below. It's Joe Rogan interviewing Dr. Michael Osterholm, who is "an American public-health scientist and a biosecurity and infectious-disease expert. Osterholm is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota and a Regents Professor, the McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, a Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota." That's a heck of a resumé!
Dr. Osterholm has written a book on the subject: "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Deadly Germs".
I've bought a copy, and I'm reading it at present. I may post a snippet from it in future. It's a very authoritative reference about the nastier side of Mother Nature.
Here's the podcast. It's a long one, so if you have limited time, I strongly recommend watching the first 21 minutes, although the whole thing is interesting and very useful.
Another reader, Gerald F., sent me this e-mail, which I entirely endorse.
It’s now clear that COVID-19 is a deadly serious global pandemic, and all necessary precautions should be taken. Still, C. S. Lewis’s words—written 72 years ago—ring with some relevance for us. Just replace “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus.”
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays.
As I wrote a few days ago:
Besides, in the end, no-one gets out of this life alive. I could be hit by a car when I run errands later this morning, or drop a kitchen knife on my foot and get blood poisoning from the resulting injury, or have another heart attack (I've had two already), or . . . the list is endless. Yes, the coronavirus could kill me. That's a risk I can't completely eliminate. So are all the other risks I mentioned earlier. I'd rather it didn't happen, but since I can't control that, I may as well get used to the idea. I'll do what I can to protect myself against it, but the rest is in God's hands, as far as I'm concerned. (If you don't believe in God, well, I guess you're on your own!) As St. Padre Pio put it in a simple prayer: "My past to Your mercy; my present to Your love; my future to Your providence." In the end, for people of faith, that's all there is.
In short, in anything and everything to do with the coronavirus epidemic, let's make the Serenity Prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr our own:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
No matter how many preparations we make, no matter how careful we are, in the end, that's the basic reality. Let's live accordingly.