What Covid Can Teach Us about Life.
It is all about perspective
Part of my morning grooming after washing and brushing my teeth is to spray a saline solution into my nostrils to drive out mucous and germs before they develop into a cold. Over the years this has been helpful but never foolproof. Last week while in the process of spraying, it dawned on me that since Covid I have not had a cold. I can’t remember when I have gone this long without at least a minor cold.
For what it is worth this is a direct benefit of Covid with increased hand washing, mask wearing and less air travel. I must admit that when this first occurred to me, I felt a little guilty. What right did I have to feel any benefit from a mass murdering virus?
Last Monday, a stranger joined my golf threesome. I was a bit disturbed that a stranger was going to join us in our space but then we found it he was a Canadian so I knew it would work out. He told us an interesting story of how covid saved his life.
He was found to have a nearly complete blockage of his carotid artery, but the vascular surgeon he saw was unable to do the regular surgery on him because of complications from a radiation treatment he had taken years before.
The man and his son decided to go to the Cleveland Clinic in the United States to see what if anything they could do. Unfortunately Covid hit, and the border between Canada and the United States was shut tight. They had no option but to wait. Unexpectedly, his doctor called to share with him that a surgeon in another Canadian city had perfected a different procedure to open up the artery that was not affected by the changes caused by the radiation. The surgery was successful, and then the doctor informed him that he was lucky. Had he waited even a few more weeks he would surely have had a stroke.
The Canadian golfer said to me somewhat apologetically, “Covid actually saved my life.”
I should have congratulated him and gone on to my drive, but that wouldn’t be me. I said to him,
“This actually shows you what I think is the great arrogance of human beings. They actually believe that they understand the world they live in.”
A bit heavy for a golf game I know, but I couldn’t help myself. Ever since I started studying Kabbalah, I have been struck by how man can see but not understand. We have vision but no perspective. The world looks to us exactly as we see it at ground level, without ever remembering how different the world looks a few minutes after takeoff.
We think we understand cause and effect, or cause and no effect. We make judgements based on what we see and what we think it means and pay no attention to the blind spots that are all around.
The deadpan comedian, Steven Wright says: I have a switch in my apartment. It doesn’t do anything. Every once in a while, I turn it on and off . . . One day I got a call. It was from a woman in France. She said, “Cut it out!”
Rabbinic literature tells Gamzu stories. Gamzu is made from two Hebrew words, Gam- also, Zu- this, and is followed by Letova- for good. Here is a famous story of Rabbi Akiva and the gamzu phenomenon.
Rabbi Akiva went to a town where there were no rooms to be had. Unfazed, he camped out in the woods with his donkey, rooster and candle — whereupon a fox ate his rooster, a lion ate the donkey, and the wind blew out his candle.
Rabbi Akiva figured this was God’s will.
In the morning he discovered that the entire town was sacked in the night. Had Akiva’s rooster crowed, or his donkey brayed or his candle shone bright, the sackers would have noticed him, too.
Leaving aside the issue of how can all bad things be for thegood, the story is a good indication of how in the moment(and some moments last a life time) we can see everything andunderstand nothing.
Instead of seeing the bad things in our life and drawing immediate and often false conclusions is it not better to adopt some humility and accept that we do not seethe whole picture and maybe the immediate conclusion and the anger that often accompanies it, will prove to be something for the better?
It is not easy. Winston Churchil had the same problem. His wife, attempting to console him after his 1945 defeat at the polls, suggested that this might prove a blessing in disguise. Churchill replied, “I am more conscious of the disguise than the blessing.”
Even if we can not see the disguise it has to make it easier to deal with the painful if we can hope that there might be something better coming even if we can not or will not be able to see it.
Here is a great story to carry with you if you are in a funk.
There I was sitting at the bar staring at my drink when a large, trouble-making biker steps up next to me, grabs my drink and gulps it down in one swig.“Well, whatcha’ gonna do about it?” he says, menacingly, as I burst into tears.“Come on, man,” the biker says, “I didn’t think you’d CRY. I can`t stand to see a man crying.”
“This is the worst day of my life,” I say. “I’m a complete failure. I was late to a meeting and my boss fired me. When I went to the parking lot, I found my car had been stolen and I don’t have any insurance. I left my wallet in the cab I took home. I found my wife with another man and then my dog bit me.” “So, I came to this bar to work up the courage to put an end to it all. I buy a drink; I drop a capsule in; and sit here watching the poison dissolve; then you show up and drink the whole thing!
But enough about me, how’s your day going?”
If you are able to gather with family and friends in a full-on Thanksgiving then we have much to be thankful for. Enjoy the holiday and remember that to be at a Thanksgiving event in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, Gam Zu Latova.
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