As the pandemic stretches on and getting things in stores—or even from Amazon—isn’t assured, my thoughts go back to Larry Norman. Specifically to his song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” Made famous for many by its use in the 1972 rapture film A Thief in the Night, the song recounts the state of those “left behind” when a piece of bread could be exchanged for a bag of gold. The lyrics are haunting in their sincerity. Here in Pennsylvania, as in neighboring New York, non-essential businesses have closed, per order of the governors. Periodic forays to the grocery store show the empty shelves of panic buying. Norman’s song rings in my ears. Only this isn’t a biblical plague. We’re just acting like it.
No doubt technology has been of great use in keeping us aware. I do wonder, however, at how panics seem to come more quickly now. Slowing down manufacturing will have a knock-on effect for things down the road, of course. Right now we’re all wondering how we’re going to get through yet another day just sitting in the house. Meanwhile the lawn is beginning to grow and I’m going to have to get out there with the push mower soon. I’d been planning on shopping for a better one this year, but plans seem to have suddenly pooled at my feet. What is essential travel anyway? Does it count a trip to the big box hardware store to buy a reel mower? Should I even bother about the lawn when there’s no toilet paper within a fifty-mile radius? I wish we’d all been ready.
The funny thing about all this is how it makes us focus on the here and now. While we’re waiting for things to “get back to normal” we’re being told nobody knows how long this might last and we should plan to hunker down for some time. The International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (being held in Australia this year) was cancelled. Many of us in the discipline have had our lives revolving around the Annual Meeting in November for all of our adulthood. If that meeting’s cancelled how will we even know when Thanksgiving comes? Can it even come without the crowds at the Macy’s parade? Best not to look too far ahead, I guess. The rapture is a fictional construct, but the effects of a pandemic are eerily similar. I do wish all of us had been ready.