And, if each system in gradation roll
Alike essential to th' amazing whole,
The least confusion but in one, not all
That system only, but the whole must fall.
Let earth unbalanc'd from her orbit fly,
Planets and suns run lawless thro' the sky;
Let ruling angels from their spheres be hurl'd,
Being on being wreck'd, and world on world;
Heav'n's whole foundations to their centre nod,
And nature tremble to the throne of God.
All this dread order break- for whom? for thee?
Vile worm!- oh madness! pride! impiety!
(Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, Epistle 1)
Alexander Pope’s "Essay on Man" stuck with me four decades since I read it at University; especially the final four lines.
These past months of the growing devastation caused by this virus reminded me yet again of the fragility of human life and how there is a dread order that we can't pretend we are outside of, above, or better than. We are a small part of the whole, and we are subject to it, part of it, we move with it not against it and moving against it is folly and self-destructive. It does not matter whether you prefer to think of the power we're seeing as God, Universe, or Mother Nature, we're experiencing the truth of a dread order that does not break for us.
I fear this disease outbreak is a warning of things to come with climate change. If it is not too late to change what seemed, prior to the virus, an inevitable and blindly arrogant march toward global warming, perhaps a positive outcome of this outbreak will be improvement in humanity's ability to see ourselves as subject to the dread order of the Universe, answerable and subject to greater powers.
I can't help but wonder whether human collective conscience will awaken now. The "least confusion but in one", is us, humans have acted in a confused way about our rightful place within the whole. Will humans realize the “madness! pride! impiety!” of acting as though we are above, outside, separate from the all-powerful energy of which we are but a small, temporary particle; that we are not the architects but simple caretakers of this singular Eden within a grand Universe?
© Copyright 2020, D.E.L.