Remember “Anno Domini” (AKA “in the year of the Lord”)? Good old “AD,” the flip side of “BC” (“before Christ”). Marking years based on a point in time makes sense if you care about history.

And we are at the verge of one of the most conspicuous dates in world consequence since VJ (Victory In Japan) Day: The Day The Plague Died. This year, next, or after that — at some time, COVID-19 will end. All the plagues have so far. And we have science to pray to in this era.

This last year, human calendars based on a person, like statues or holidays, fully enflamed how we embrace history. So, it is not surprising that, at some point in my lifetime, “AD” became the “Common Era” (“CE”) and “BC” became “Before the Common Era” (“BCE”). The “C” that was Christ, is now common. In theory, the swap happened hundreds of years ago in a German text citation. Right. The “wink-wink”/”Nod-Nod”/”Don’t-ya-know”-“Don’t-ya-know” of Monty Python follows on after that obligatory explanation. Even BC/AD did not exist until 500 years after Christ’s time on earth.

Time is the only other constant we have besides gravity. And we really do not know what makes either. Oh, we know what gravity does a fair bit, and we are pretty good at measuring the passage of time, but we really have nothing besides theories (a lot of them) about how these universal constants create their force. Forget about why they exist.

So we control what we can and universalize it. Like “BCE” or getting vaccinated. But history is there, even if we do not understand how or why time works.

The Plague of Athens happened between 430 and 427 BCE. The Greek historian Thucydides was pretty graphic in his description of the plague’s symptoms: “Violent heats in the head; redness and inflammation of the eyes; throat and tongue quickly suffused with blood; breath became unnatural and fetid; sneezing and hoarseness; violent cough; vomiting; retching; violent convulsions …” It killed 1/3 of everyone it spread to.

As noted, pandemics end, and the end of this Plague might have been a boon to one of the gods of BCE Greece, the half-human, Apollo-fathered Greek god Asclepius, written about in the Iliad, centuries before the Plague of Athens. Since I know precious little of the why’s and how’s of ancient anything, my understanding of this god at this time is because of one interesting reality.

Asclepius was the god of medicine, and the rituals in his worship were part of a healing ceremony that was personal, not social. Verging on a retreat or sanitarium, these temples were not places of sacrifice, but of healing. This is the god who created the rod with intertwining snakes that medical doctors have as a symbol on any number of business cards and buildings.

But that is not the connection between our time and BCE that I see. A fellow architect noted to me that many temples to Asclepius were built soon after the Plague of Athens. Those 300 Greek Asclepion temples were healing sanctuaries of cleansing diets and sleep therapy (perhaps using drugs), and they required a direct, personal relationship with the priests involved.

Projection of our own realities distorts historic facts (as all of last year’s controversial statues and names can attest). However, history is human. Humans project death as well as triumph in their obsession with control.

In our projection of hope, “Trust The Science” has become a mantra. “The Science” is, of course, made of facts. But science is made by humans. The same humans who fused religion and science when they built all those temples to Asclepius.

We go with what we know, and part of what we know is hope. Unlike any other being, humans know enough to project and hope. We also project fear. Suicides, overdoses, and violence are growing in the pandemic year along with all the plague deaths we have now or in Athens almost 2,500 years ago. We know we control Science. I think we also know that we do not control God. We were made to feel the joy of hope, the ecstasy of love, but we are also made to feel the extreme fear and pain of death, too.

Perhaps the dance of faith and fear is clearer in Plague Times. Like all those Asclepion Temples, maybe the next decades will not usher in the next “Roaring ‘20’s” or the broken hope of the then-new President Harding’s “Return To Normalcy” pledge after the last pandemic. Maybe the one-on-one impositions of millions of locked-downs have connected some of us to that other God-made-Man — Jesus.

It is said that Jesus once encountered an Asclepion temple, with a man sitting next to a pool of water hoping for healing as the waters were stirred. Trusting in the best science available, his years of expectations proved vain until the true healer arrived.

The hope we were given by God is manifested by all those temples and all our churches today. As an architect I can attest that the act of making anything embodies faith that it all matters. Beyond “Trust The Science,” I know God in this life, and I see it in those ancient Greeks, too. Humans do not change, but what we know does. Obviously, the science that we trust today has triumphed over curing rituals, but humans have not. Our fears go beyond ignorance and, especially in years like the last one, focus firmly on what we can never control, let alone understand.

No amount of science ends the fear of death, no matter how much we trust it, because we cannot trust that death is something we can control. Quite the opposite. Science may be more about discovering what was always there, whether we are comfortable with it or not. No cleansing rituals or dream therapy changes us, but opening our fears to the reality of something we cannot control is the unending challenge of our humanity.

It is much harder for me to trust God than science. But I have to.