“The true healers…one doesn’t come across many of them, and anyhow it must be a hard vocation.”—Albert Camus, The Plague
How would you choose to live when faced with your mortality?
This is the question posed by Albert Camus in The Plague—the story of a city under quarantine during a time of pestilence, an analogy for the rise of Nazism and the response of the French Resistance during World War II. The problem he poses is not a simple one of satisfying our desires or achieving life goals, nor of reckless sacrifice and heroism. Camus’s concern is to be fully human—to be responsible & free in the ambiguity, uncertainty, and demands of our lives. His conviction is that, when we awaken to our mortality, we paradoxically come alive to push back the dehumanizing forces that would hasten our end. In the light of our mortality, we live.
“What’s needed is imagination…. We should go forward, groping our way through the darkness, stumbling perhaps at times, and try to do what good lay in our power.”
We are in a time of pandemic, and we are in a time of political domination—natural and human forces that each cause suffering, and that combined greatly compound that suffering. More US Americans have now died from COVID-19 than died in the Vietnam War; and as in that and all wars, those most marginalized suffer most greatly in this pandemic. We see this in our state, in our country, and around the world.
In the finitude of our lives, under the pressure of forces of such massive scale: how should we live?
– How do we stand most effectively against oppression?
– How do we build a more livable world for us all?
– What is our power—
what can we do that will make a real difference?
– Where do we find joy, in the light of our mortality and in the demands of our time?
“The tale he had to tell…could only be the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, …by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers.”