Yesterday I walked into a place where they had antique radios stacked up as a display and decoration. I had seen such radios before as I had collected some and put them in our cafeteria in building one. There were wooden cabinets and plastic dials and tattered fabric mesh over the speakers.
I thought about the messages that came out of these radios over the years. Words. Sounds in the air.
In the 1930’s and 40’s there was much to talk about as the Great Depression gripped the country followed by World War II. In the 50’s the Cold War started and the Korean War. In the 60’s there was Vietnam. All ages seemed to have their crisis, though recent history has seemed quiet, peaceful and prosperous in comparison. But, unless one is a student of history, we don’t compare. We think the times we live in are unique. In some ways, such as the speed and methods of communication, they are. But in broad ways, they are the same as what people have experienced before.
In 1932 when the country was in the grips of the Great Depression, when so many were out of work and had lost their money and had much difficult feeding their families, Franklin D Roosevelt said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. I think that is great advice. Especially since stress compromises your immune system.
But there are agents who deal in fear, and this is not new.
In 1938 it was the golden age of radio. People would gather around those antique radios I saw when they were new and listen to the sounds that came out of them. Some sounds were for entertainment, and some were for information.
One particular Sunday evening most people tuned into a popular show on NBC. When it was over they switched to CBS, where a show was already in progress. The words coming from the little box described an explosion in a field in New Jersey. Creatures crawled from a capsule with saliva dripping from their rimless mouths. The National Guard showed up and the were promptly annihilated by unknown weapons the creatures possessed.
Other capsules containing more aliens landed in St Louis and other cities. The world was being invaded.
Americans panicked. One police department fielded 2000 calls in an hour. There were heart attacks. National Guardsman called in asking where to report to. The City of Providence Rhode Island begged the power company to turn the electricity off so the aliens could not see them from space.
What caused all this hysteria? Words.
You have all heard more than enough about the Corona Virus and how to reduce its spread. The economic impact from the response the the virus is real and will be felt for some time.
But not forever.
An Eastern Oligarch wanted a sentence that was always true, so that he may engrave it to be displayed by the public. The wise men of the land lined up to submit their ideas to the king. The king listened to them one by one and considered them. He’d turn them away one by one saying “ no, that is not always true under every circumstance”. The line eventually dwindled. Finally, one man stepped up. He presented his sentence. The king thought long about it and began to smile. “Yes, this is always true”.
What were the words?
”This too shall pass”.
This will be a footnote in history soon enough. Let’s us work together to limit the health effects while at the same time doing what we can to keep the businesses that we all depend on, in business.
Fear not. This too shall pass.