In some ways, the COVID world makes the pre-industrial world more relatable. There is more insecurity now than before. Scarcity is something that is far more relatable after seeing months of shortages and empty shelves at poorly-stocked grocers. It is now more heartfelt to be grateful for simply having food, as the steady supply that I took for granted last year now seems a luxury. Even now, with supplies much improved over a few months ago, the stores still lack things that I used to take for granted.
And yet most of human history has been lived with uncertainty about these things. Every vaccine on our vaccination list was probably once an epidemic or an otherwise feared disease. And life went on. Instead of life being defined by possessions or security, it was defined by heart and soul, family, beauty, and a host of spiritual things that were held to be of greater value than food. Having had more experience of scarcity now, I begin to appreciate their point more deeply. I found this to be moving:
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
who gains understanding
For wisdom is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold
She [wisdom] is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare to her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peaceful.
She is a tree of life to those who embrace her,
those who lay hold of her will be blessed. ...
When you lie down you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked.
(Proverbs 3:13-18; 24-25)
In comparison, I think our pop culture is not even a parody of what it should be.
Wisdom and kindness can give our lives a kind of value that a well-stocked pantry cannot: one with honor. The return-on-investment of wisdom is quality of life, depth of life, beauty of life, even (often enough) length of life. It sweetens sleep as it does waking life, deepens friendships, makes the rough places smooth. It is life-giving. Wisdom is the world's foundation; anything built without it will not last, and anything without it will not continue -- and will not be a blessing, and will not give life, and cannot attain to peace. When the rubble of our current mess is cleared away -- however deep the rubble may be -- it will take wisdom to lay the foundation again, and a respect for what is solid and upright and true.