What will we learn from this Pandemic?

“There is a face of Sadness for those that do not have Sadness” Antonio Machado

Awaiting the blissful third shot of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, we took the time off our busy schedule to watch people from the simple vantage point of our seat. There were a few people waiting for the shot and others filling their drug prescriptions. They were of very different ages, socio-economic backgrounds, and health care needs. But they shared one trait: Profound. Unfathomable. Sadness.

Not a single one of them was chatting about inconsequential themes or laughing off. They all seemed too preoccupied with the daily up and downs of survival in these times where we have all lost our Sense of Future, our trust in a Better Tomorrow. This one and a half years of Social Isolation and Distancing have consistently gnawed at our human capacity to empathize and our commitment to live together. We have burrowed ourselves so deep in our bespoke cocoons that we can hardly notice who is standing next to us, and worse of all, who is trying to connect with us.

In a September 26. 2021 Washington Post article, Karla Adam said: “The United Kingdom, hoping to ease a supply-chain crisis and a Christmas logjam, will grant temporary visas to more than 10,000 foreigners to work as truck drivers and in the food industry…Britain is grappling with a string of shortages: Supermarkets are running out of goods, and restaurants chains like McDonald’s and KFC are cutting items form their menus. The truck driver shortage is particularly acute. Britain’s Road Haulage Association estimates the country needs about 100.000 drivers. The crisis spread over the weekend to gas stations, resulting  in long lines at the pump.”

We are witnessing an Implosion of almost all the known social parameters of yore. Before the Pandemic, there was no shortage of British and European Union drivers willing to risk their lives transporting those huge tankers full of flammable liquids; the salaries were very good, which paved their way for access to a better lifestyle. However, after many of them were stranded in their homes without working at all, something strange started to seep in their tough blue-collar spirits: risk aversion. They appreciated the time off with their families and sharing the great little moments of life: their sons and daughters’ birthdays, their sports and music events, cooking a Sunday dinner with the whole family helping out, watching their favorite team, etc. When they were summoned, a majority had retired or were working elsewhere; it did not matter that most of them had to take a significant pay and benefits cut.

Paradoxically one of the few painters that could grasp the essential grip of Divinity in our lives and has been able to transmit it to humans through generations was a born rebel that drank too much, adored la bonne chaire des femmes and was often fighting with the Catholic Church to the point of almost being excommunicated. But he never was because they were in awe of his unique mastery of the chiaroscuro techniques. His visceral, bloody strokes accentuated the poverty of Jesus and his followers. Intoxicated with the lead from his paintings, he died too young, after a fight in Naples. His name? Michalangelo Merisi. Caravaggio. Master of the Raw Realism that still deeply disturbs us.

Note. This image of Caravaggio’s Saint Jerome writing was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

By Caravaggio – Self-scanned, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15219558

In this painting of Saint Jerome, a masterpiece now at the Borghese Gallery, Caravaggio captured the Doctor of the Church in a moment of pause of meditation in his travails of translating the Holy Bible into Latin in the Fourth Century. He is not depicted as a penitent but as a scholar whose resting right hand is casually pointing at the inkwell at the other side of the table and at the same time at the skull, a reminder of the inevitability of death and the futility of the vainly pursuit of material goods. The red cloak enveloping the ageing saint takes a physicality of supernatural protection from above.

What if the terrible suffering we have almost all of us suffered during the past few months of Pandemic finally has a sobering effect in our endeavors and attitudes?

What if, instead of foolishly pursuing just material comfort, we take a look at others?

What if we stop plundering the Earth’s Natural Resources and find the alternatives?

What if we stop minding our little miseries and start admiring our many blessings?

What if we tell our loved ones how much we love them again, and again, and again?

What if we open our hearts to spiritual values and bestow that gift to our children?

Therein lies the greatest antidote to the modern spiritual angst and the Triumph of Happiness.

As we will all finally undertake the very same journey, we might imitate the poet’s panache:

“And when the day arrives for the final voyage

And the ship of no return is set to sail,

You’ll find me aboard, traveling light,

almost naked, like the children of the sea.”

Antonio Machado – Campos de Castilla

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Happy Easter

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning. We wish a Happy Easter to all our Christian relatives and friends around the world. We are anxiously waiting the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ tomorrow, Easter Sunday. It is, together with Christmas festivity, the holiest day of the year for Christians and we always respected it. Our brother Gustavo yesterday reminded us that a day like today, Good Friday, we used to go to the Nuestro Señor de la Paciencia, a very old church in the Old City (Ciuda Vieja) of Montevideo, Uruguay, with our mother Gladys and our grandmother Yolanda. In fact it s a quaint little church below a bigger one, sitting in its basement with an access through a very steep marble stairwell. We slowly descended, firmly holding the arms of our ageing grandmother, until we reached it.

At the altar, an image of a sitting Jesus Christ reminds us of the value of patience and being patient. All around the walls, there are hopeful little mementos (limbs, hearts, heads, etc.) that the Faithful had planted after fervently praying for the well-being of their loved ones with their personal wishes. In our novel Madame D.C, – Three Voyages , we described the visit of our characters to this site. It has always been a site of strong emotional significance to us, Montevideanos, and we miss it badly. Due to its precarious architectural parameters, it had been open only on Good Fridays for decades. Today, due to the pandemic restrictions, it will remain closed. Closing our eyes, we are right there.

Note– This image of Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas was taken from Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas-Caravaggio_(1601-2).jpg

According to Saint John’s Gospel, Saint Thomas was the only disciple of Jesus Christ that doubted his resurrection on Easter Sunday, saying that he would not believe it until he personally poked his finger in Christ’s wounds with his own finger. He missed the first appearance of Jesus Christ to his disciples. Then Jesus Christ appeared to him and prodded him to put his finger inside his wounds. After Thomas made sure that he was in front of Jesus Christ resurrected, Our Savior told him:

Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29.

Caravaggio reproduced this Biblical tale in that great masterpiece painted around 1601-1602 and now housed in the Sans Souci gallery of Potsdam, Germany. In these terrible pandemic times, many of us are asking the same question: “how come God allowed this tragedy to unfold over Mankind?” With all the extra burden shoved on our financial and familiar dimensions, due to the draconian Public Health measures that severely limit our mobility, our faith is being put to the test everyday. How many times have we paused for a few seconds to mull over the same painful question:

“Why did you abandon us God? WHY?!!!”

Let us pause for a moment and reflect on the many blessings that we have in this valley of tears. The big scientific advances of the last few years have enabled the design and creation of good vaccines. The new Biden-Harris administration has efficiently distributed million of doses all over the country. Both my children and myself are now vaccinated and protected against the ravages of Covid-19.

How can we avoid feeling that God has always been at our side and never let go of our hands?

But the deliverance from this pandemic must make us reflect about the future course of our lives. We cannot go back to our ill-advised consumerism that is gravely damaging our planet’s ecosystem. We cannot ignore that millions of human beings are living in miserly conditions all over the world. We cannot tolerate that warmongering among nations, tribes, groups, etc., are destroying families. And we have to stop deluding ourselves that, even if we ignore the above, we can “save our skin.”

“Gésu était en agonie jusqu’à la fin du monde. Il ne fau pas dormir pendant ce temps-là.” (Jesus was in agony until the end of the world. We should not be sleeping during that time) Blaise Pascal

This is no time to go back to our old “sleep mode.” It is time to wake up and take positive action.

Thank you very much God Almighty.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.