Philip Christman implores us, in Volume 99 of The Tourist, when we are tempted to write another “What is art in the face of ___________,” piece, to remember that C.S. Lewis already did it. Though a Christman uses slightly stronger language than I am willing to employ here, he makes his point. During the Second World War, Lewis wrote “Learning in War-time” as a sermon that he preached in 1939.
The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumable they have their reward. Men are different.They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffold, discuss, the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache; it is our nature.
This is by no means an argument to toss out precautionary measures against a certain threat. While Lewis points out that 100% of people die, most of us would rather do it later than sooner. It is, however, a moment to recognize that the world is never truly “safe” and waiting until it has achieved that status is likely to keep you from, as Morrissey would say, “doing all the things in life you’d like to.” We can shelter in place and still remain committed to learning, creating and expressing.