Comment: A question of when
By Laura Aiken
There have been a lot of words to describe this time in which the novel coronavirus upended our lives — unprecedented, uncertain and most definitely unwanted. Unheard of terms like social distancing became common usage overnight. It’s a pandemic with its own vernacular. This language has bonded communities across Canada. We are all in this together has been echoed time and time again.
In periods of upheaval, there are no more comforting words I can think of than the famed adage “this too shall pass.” In times of vast unknowns, one practically burns to get beyond speculation: But when? When shall this pass? We lean into this uncertainty knowing for certain that eventually it will.
This too shall pass — where did such sage words divine from? A Wikipedia entry well supported online attributes it to medieval Persian poets. The phrase’s presence in the West is linked to the English poet Edward Fitzgerald through Solomon’s Seal, the retelling of a Persian fable where a King is searching for a ring that would make him happy whenever he was sad. He was presented with a ring etched with words to the effect of “this too shall pass.”
This too shall pass is one of the most comforting sentiments of our time, its wisdom found in its fundamental truth about the world — the good times pass too; change is always coming. Life is a a series of surprises both delightful and vexing. For those in emergency management, there is a sensibility circulating that the bad surprises are becoming more numerous and catastrophic. The bushfires in Australia was on the cover of our last edition, and now a pandemic graces May. The world lacks not for crisis.
The many other tragedies of no less personal consequence like accidents, fires, flus and heart attacks are still happening. Many people are having the worst day of their life and it has nothing to do with COVID-19. The people who are acutely aware of this continued reckoning with everyday life are the fire service. Fire departments across Canada have stepped up to make the changes they need to keep resources on hand for all emergencies while striving to keep their members safe, members who are frequently on the frontlines of health care. This is no small feat in a global crisis.
And when this too does pass, there will be many lessons and undoubtedly permanent changes to some aspects of the world. Governments will need to regroup on how they prepare for the next pathogen. This isn’t the first pandemic humanity has faced, nor will it be the last.