We are all forced into circumspection by our present circumstances, and nothing reveals stupid like having the time to fully appreciate it.

I ate ice cream last night. The ice cream was not very good. But it was ice cream. The day, like all days now, had been long. I am in the BMI Danger Zone: I’ve shed some pounds, working out every day, but I’m still, well, undeniably fat. Fat, old, male: the COVID-19 Trifecta of Danger.

But I ate ice cream. And it was good.

Like all good lizards, when the confusion of stimuli is reduced, we orient ourselves toward the warmth. Like ice cream. But humanity may be unique in our ability to like, even love, what very well might end us.

I see it in myself: If I could put on pads again, I would take enormous joy in ending my physical wellbeing by tackling someone with my head. And I see it in others: On nearly abandoned highways, motorcycles scream by faster than they should, riders legally wearing no helmet in my state. Every morning while I stand two meters from other customers and get coffee, those before me buy cigarettes. They smoke. And I am fat, and I eat ice cream.

We have seen national protests over having limitations placed on people in an effort to staunch the spread of a disease. In response to stupidity, some call those who do not wear masks “murderers.” There is no shortage of rules that we can follow, or not, nor of condemnation for those who are not following those rules.

The problem is that hideous inhumanity often gets conflated with human stupidity, or just human difference. We are made differently. At the margins there are saints who save lives, especially at times like these, and at the other end of the human spectrum are those who should be stopped from doing evil. The rest of us, the vast majority of our herd, are balancing doing what we should do and what we want to do, especially when they are different things.

In preparing for a panel discussion last week, a great good person was upset that I did not recognize only two types of people: those who do what they want at the expense of all the rest, and those who are part of a greater good, who follow the rules that benefit us all. Effectively, there is “us” and there is “them.” I responded: “We is we.” That did not go over well.

But God made us. All of us. God made those smoking cigarettes. He made me, and I eat ice cream. And I do not wear a mask inside my car. Humans make horrific choices, and literally do evil things. But humans cannot fully control what God created. If they could I would have a BMI of about 24, and would have retired from the NFL about 30 years ago. Without a broken nose and a dislocated front tooth.

The grading of each of us is at many levels, and usually we fall short of what we expect of ourselves, let alone of what others expect of us. After 64 years, I am pretty sure that I often do not like who I am. I fail at the hopes I have for myself, pretty much every day, so my failure at following others’ commandments is guaranteed.

In a time when huge social orders sweep across all of humanity, everywhere, the misfit between “ought” and “must” has never been clearer, or more in question.

We can decide that the world is either “us and them” or “we is we.” Jesus already knows that we are all his. I have touched no one other than my wife with more than my elbow in six weeks, not because I am better than they are, nor worse. I have followed the dehumanizing rules of sequestration simply because we are, for once, forced to realize that we are all equally human, for good or ill.

 

Image credits: Christopher DOMBRES, Big Ben in Japan