Witnessing a Miracle

The COVID-19 pandemic is a miracle.

I mean this in the biblical sense. Biblical miracles are horrific, bringing death and destruction. The Ten Plagues of Exodus were miracles, or at least “wonders.” The miracles of Revelation are even worse.

A miracle isn’t a fluffybunny event. It is an act of God.

The COVID pandemic is a power greater than ourselves. We can’t stop it; we understand very little about it. It brings us to our knees.

I am in awe of it. I have watched humanity killing the planet my whole life, with obvious warnings of dire consequences. But this Spring’s COVID shutdowns were the first time I saw humanity do anything about it. It was short-lived, but amazing: flights grounded, industry slowed, pollution abated enough to reveal long-hidden mountains for the first time in years.

All of that ended after only a few months. Nothing to see here, folks; go back to paying attention to MONEY. And so contrails again fill the skies, mountains retreat back into smoggy shrouds, and the gears of commerce grind away.

Biblical miracles are famously unheeded, which is why it took all Ten Plagues for Pharaoh to relent. God makes clear commandments; humans don’t follow them. This is the whole story of the Old Testament. Even after occupying the Promised Land, the Hebrews can’t get their shit together, and Jerusalem falls over and over again. The New Testament is no better, especially the ending.

The COVID-19 virus makes its demands pretty clear: Avoid crowds. Stop industrial slaughterhouses and factory farming. Don’t go to (non-essential) work. Spend time with your children; actually raise them. Stay home from school. Stay home, but go outside; look at the sky, feel the sun, breathe the fresh air. Attend to Reality over money. Don’t go to bars, don’t party, don’t crowd into spectacles like sportsball. Calm the fuck down. Take a goddamn break from your hyper-consumer lifestyle.

We still need food and shelter and medicine, the sustenance and maintenance of our lives, and the virus doesn’t seem to have anything against these. The virus clarifies what is essential and non-essential. It turns out much of human activity isn’t essential. We already knew that; the virus urges us to stop denying it.

The pandemic makes another biblical suggestion: a Jubilee cancellation of debt. We can’t stop the gears of commerce, we argue, because we’re all in debt – if we don’t earn money, we will die! Our society won’t forgive debts, but what if we simply froze them, until a vaccine or cure is found? A year (or however long it takes) out of commercial time. Don’t end, but suspend the non-essential economy. All debts, for everyone, everywhere, frozen*. A global time-out. That would be a miracle.

I don’t believe in the biblical god. But I do believe in Nature, and natural consequences. The coronavirus is just one of many disastrous and inevitable natural consequences of human activity. Animal agriculture and overpopulation and global industrialization will do this; it’s a wonder it’s taken so long. It’s also a wonder how gentle the virus is, all things considered. It could have been more like ebola, with a much higher death rate. Plagues of the past have been far deadlier. The Black Death killed 50% of some European regions. We are getting off lightly here.

My response to this miracle is awe. Others respond with denial, or panic, or exploitation. So it has been written; so it ever was, and ever will be. I have long felt like I’m living in a dystopian novel, but right now I also feel like I’m living in a biblical prophecy. What a wonder, to witness these times!

*What about money to run the essential services? Our economic system accumulates vast reservoirs of money in billionaires. If these reservoirs can’t be used, then what exactly is this system for?

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Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

7 thoughts on “Witnessing a Miracle”

  1. This is a dress rehearsal for the Climate Apocalypse to come. Lack of respect for nature and denial of science fact.

    Herman Cain passed away today, he had tweeted that COVID-19 was nothing to worry about. COVID-19 had a different opinion of course.

    The crazy thing is the “True Believers” will go to their graves while worshipping the man who turned the USA into a Plague State. Just look at South Korea if you want some perspective.

    But all of this is minor to what climate change has in store for us.

    Sometimes I feel like the main character in the Science Fiction novel, The Lathe of Heaven. I do a post-apocalyptic climate game that talks about massive fires and plagues and there we are.

  2. In this Miracle you describe, we humans seem to be playing a dual role, a Pharaoh being punished for our wrong ways and the Hebrews given a set of rules for their survival. The evidence shows that given our historical record the survivors are doomed to fail.

  3. Well done! And isn’t the most annoying of factors that those who began and profited from the destruction of nature got to live long, comfortable lives, but every younger generation will pay the cost, more and more each year.

    “Wonders”, “miracles”, and in the Gospel of John a whole other category, “signs.” Jesus says “You are looking for me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate your fill [feeding of the 5000]”. So the feeding of the 5000 was not a sign? Not clear what the difference is.

  4. This essay of yours was one of the most eye-opening stories I’ve ever read. But, hey! I’m used to you and your eye-opening tracts. Bravo!

  5. Thank you, Nina! Wow! Looking at your cartoons for years in the Funny Times (out of Cleveland), I never dreamed of you as a voice of wisdom – but here you are! from one crone to another, may you be recognized (if you want to be) by more than your detractors (who often do deserve more compassion than we want to give them)
    Have you seen the short video by another artist on “the Cancel God”? Your post on divisions reminded me of it.

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