April 18th 2020


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Justice at last: Cardinal Pell set free

EDITORIAL Australia needs an economic reset after covid19 crisis

CANBERRA OBSERVED The very young can still be 'taken care of' during the covid19 outbreak

RURAL AFFAIRS A national disgrace: Our great land sale

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Use detention centres to help deal with covid19

GENDER POLITICS Do we really need to ask, what is a woman?

REFLECTION A chance for a change of heart: Covid19 as Memento mori

FAMILY Who let the kids out? The stay-at-home parent and covid19

ECONOMICS The oil cartel: The lesson for other industries from OEC

HEALTH Lessons from the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic

CULTURE AND SOCIETY There is a war: The battle in and for hearts

ASIAN AFFAIRS What makes China different is not the Chinese but the CCP

HUMOUR Locked down in Covi Town

MUSIC Great, er, swan songs

CINEMA+TV Staying in; staying sane

BOOK REVIEW Not our Robin Hood

BOOK REVIEW At home among others

POETRY

LETTERS

AS THE WORLD TURNS

CARDINAL GEORGE PELL FREE: The commentary file

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REFLECTION
A chance for a change of heart: Covid19 as Memento mori


by Aaron Carlin

News Weekly, April 18, 2020

Back in the Middle Ages, and even going back as far as the Ancient Romans, a common practice was what is known as the memento mori – “remember you will die”. When a Roman general took part in a triumphal parade, there was a custom of keeping him humble through a slave whispering in his ear: “Memento mori.” In the Middle Ages, model skulls would be kept on desks as a vivid reminder that this life is very short. We must always be ready for death.

These days, with covid19 rapidly escalating, leaving thousands dead in China, Italy, Spain and the United States, the damage is spreading. We pampered little people of First World countries are beginning to get more than a little taste of mortality.

As the recent death of 21-year-old Spanish soccer coach Francisco Garcia demonstrates, even the young are possible casualties. Death can come at any time – this virus is a memento mori. Our bubble of self-sufficiency, brought on by a million and one luxuries, comforts, and a glut of mind-numbing entertainments, has broken. On a wide scale, we are finally getting a real glimpse at the fragility of life.

The practice of the memento mori done by our forbears was not done to be grim for its own sake. Rather, it is a reality check. This life is short. We cannot waste it. At any moment death can strike. St Alphonsus Ligouri said that a tree when it falls will fall in the direction that it leans. Which way are we leaning? Which way are we going? What is our trajectory? This taste of death that we are experiencing the world over with covid19 serves as a potent reminder to reflect on the direction we are going.

We are made, day by day, by our choices. Our decisions not only change the world outside us, but also determine the kind of people we are. The recent reactions to covid19 are a sad example of what we can be. These times show blatant disregard for the needs of others. This fighting over toilet paper, staple foods, cleaning products, and now, the stockpiling mania moving towards paracetamol and other medications is disgraceful.

Recently, a 13-year-old girl was trampled in this nasty “every man for himself” madness. This behaviour highlights the ugliness of hearts that only care for themselves. Are you leaning in this direction? Covid19 is a memento mori. We are not guaranteed a single extra second to be better.

Our behaviour these days is a far cry from the heroism that Australians and our international friends showed during the recent fires. We remember the incredible extent of donations to those in need. We remember the heroic efforts of our firefighters and of those volunteering to help them with food and encouragement. Even friends from overseas – with no strict obligation to help – came and sacrificed their Christmas time with their families to fight and protect us.

This is an image of what we are called to be. We human beings are social creatures. Hence, we are at our best when we are selflessly looking out for each other, to the extent of sacrifice. To love is to will the good of others, and then do something about it.

If our lives are leaning in the direction of love, that is good. Memento mori. We are not guaranteed any extra time to go this way, towards the beauty of love of others.

 

THE PARADOX

This pandemic could just simply be a pandemic and no more, merely a bringer of suffering and death. We have seen how fear can lead to deep selfishness, a selfishness that can tend towards shunning others, forgetting our families, and growing more inward looking by watching more and more television and playing video games in isolation.

Wake up! This pandemic is a memento mori. We are not guaranteed a single extra second. So, instead of becoming worse, let us be better. There are many things we can do to make amends in our lives right now. For example, we can give some of our excess to those with nothing – whether it be toilet paper, paracetamol or food.

We can keep contact with friends in isolation – even acquaintances that we know are lonely. We can cook easy-to-eat meals for our medical staff. We can swallow our pride and reconcile with those we have hurt.

We have risen to the demands of love during the fires. We Australians can do it again now. Given the virus serves as a memento mori, this means we need to move towards kindness, compassion and the ability to sacrifice for love of others quickly.

Death can come at any time – this virus is a reminder of this. So, let us keep ourselves in the trajectory of love, starting with our families. If we do that, we will be building the foundations of a kinder world when the sun rises on this darkness.

There is hope: but the choice is ours if we are to turn this hope into something real.




























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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm