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We need to find the silver linings in this virus cloud

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Daily life as we know it has been fundamentally challenged. We're not at all sure where we are headed. Photo: Reuters

Daily life as we know it has been fundamentally challenged. We're not at all sure where we are headed. Photo: Reuters

REUTERS

Daily life as we know it has been fundamentally challenged. We're not at all sure where we are headed. Photo: Reuters

Times are tough and we are all worried - but let's keep things simple. It is above all time to put the bright side out.

Few of us knew until recently that Saint Sebastian is the patron saint of plague victims. It goes back a bit.

But happily, Sebastian survived the first attempts of a tyrannical Roman emperor to murder him.

Less encouragingly, Sebastian then went back to the aforesaid emperor in efforts to explain to the great man how wrong his world view was. You can guess how that one ended.

Yep, Saint Sebastian is one of the Christians' revered martyrs. But the plague victim patronship came some centuries later when the story of how he ducked death the first time was promulgated and adapted. The sadder end of his tale was downplayed.

Yes, it is far too easy to be snide here and find historic holes in articles of religious faith. A far simpler and more immediate view of life is to admit that we need a Saint Sebastian-figure right now.

Daily life as we know it has been fundamentally challenged. We're not at all sure where we are headed.

As our nation goes into a very gloomy shutdown, a move which is repeated all across the developed world, we face considerable economic and social fallout.

The seriousness of it all tells us we need something very simple: a sense of fun.

Our buddy Saint Sebastian lived in the years 256-288. But his celebrity came centuries later and related to the tale of his survival of the first official murder attempt against him. So, we definitely need a latter-day Saint Sebastian for our times.

We have few precedents in living memory in this country. It is interesting to see the great French writer Albert Camus's 'The Plague' once more attracting public attention.

But maybe we should delve deeper and far earlier.

The most famous literary work to come out of the Black Death plague was Giovanni Boccaccio's 'The Decameron', which dates from 1353. This was 100 bawdy, hilarious and erotic stories told by seven women and three men over 10 days, while they were quarantined in a Tuscan villa outside Florence. So, some 670 years ago, as the pandemic raged across northern Italy, Boccaccio's characters distracted themselves with funny and, quite frankly, dirty stories.

But the determination of those young women and men, self-isolated, was that "every person born into this world has a natural right to sustain, preserve and defend" their own life.

So their storytelling, all of nearly 700 years ago, became its own remedy, drowning out the howling of those dying on the other side of the ivy-covered stone walls.

Nobody is advocating isolating ourselves to ignore the suffering of vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours in the coming weeks. But we suddenly need to identify positives amid a sea of negative messages.

In the coming days we will live differently. It will be a time to talk and listen.

Irish Independent