Stay calm, be smart, carry on and trust the Lord

Published 5:15 pm Friday, March 20, 2020

Being a rural state without a large metropolitan area has been a vexing problem for Mississippi, but in this latest world crisis, it is a boon.

No matter how hard we try to make life smooth, easy and predictable, that’s not the way it works on this planet. Adam ate the apple and we must wait our turn for paradise.

In the meantime, I like the words from the 1939 English motivational poster: Keep calm and carry on. (And wash your hands.)

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If you live long enough, you come to expect such panics. I remember as a first grader doing nuclear attack drills. We were told to get under our desks and cover our necks with our hands. I was only six, but I knew the better strategy in that situation would be to simply kiss a part of my anatomy goodbye.

Then there was the Malthusian catastrophe. Explosive population growth would strip our ability to grow food and the world would collapse in massive starvation. Turns out, affluent people would rather travel than have babies. Farm technology exploded and we have massive food surpluses. Declining population and obesity turned out to be the real problems.

Then there was the disappearing ozone layer over Antarctica caused by aerosol sprays. We were all going to fry, or at least die of skin cancer. Somehow, the ozone hole closed and we invented dozens of sunscreen lotions. Problem solved.

Then there were the gas lines, raging inflation and peak oil. All the fossil fuels would disappear and it would be back to horses and buggies. Instead, we now worry about deflation. Fracking has led to oversupply of fossil fuels. And cheap wind and solar energy is booming.

For a while we all worried about a massive meteor strike until global warming became a much better thing to worry about. You can debate global warming and have protests and changes in public policy and even fund billions in research. That’s a much richer worry environment than a random meteor strike that you can’t do much about.

Then there’s always the worry about an alien invasion. Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” broadcast takes the prize in true mass panic attacks. Listening over the radio in 1938, 3 million radio listeners thought it was really happening.

Cancer and heart disease kill 65 million people worldwide every year but we’re not panicking.

I remember the swine flu epidemic of 2009. It infected 60 million people, killing up to a half million worldwide. The world survived. I survived the swine flu as well. Lying on my bed in a feverish state, I realized that when you are dying you don’t have a chance to be reflective or say goodbye. You are too busy dying. “If this keeps up another five hours, I’m a goner,” I thought. But the fever broke and here I am writing about it today.

Sometimes disasters live up to their billing. Such as Katrina. But the predictions of massive storms every year after caused by global warming didn’t pan out.

Other times we dodge a bullet. Just a few weeks ago, Jackson was gripped by fear of flooding. But the rains stopped and the river drained. Five hundred homes were impacted but it could have been much worse.

Just this past year the China-U. S. trade war was supposed to cause an international recession. That one kind of just whimpered away.

One of my favorite U. S. presidents is Calvin Coolidge. Newspaper columnists criticized him for taking naps every afternoon. His response: “The less I do, the better it is for the country.”

Another famous Coolidge quote: “Four-fifths of all our troubles would disappear if we would only sit down and keep still.”

Or I could just quote Jesus. In Matthew 6:34 Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” He added, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

So do as Jesus says, not as I do. I am a worry wart.

Years ago, I wrote a little ditty on my guitar. Surprisingly, it resonated with my family and they request that I play it every year when the red clover blooms. It goes:

Look at the red clover. It comes back again.

So many fears, so many wasted tears.

You can interchange years, fears and tears to make multiple verses. You get the idea.

This would happen during peak allergy season. Now every sniffle causes fear.

Never before has the world been so prepared to handle a virus epidemic. We can communicate instantly around the globe. This hastens panic, but it also hastens a prudent response that can avert disaster.

In our neighboring state of Tennessee, in the city of Oak Ridge, the world’s most powerful supercomputer ran billions of calculations on 8,000 compounds to discover 77 compounds that could stop the COVID-19 from binding to human cells. Tests have now begun applying this knowledge.

Scientists were able to map the COVID-19 genome within weeks.

Dozens of research labs around the world are racing to find a vaccine. Thanks to the Internet, they will be able to share data and work collaboratively in a way that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.

The world is prepared to deal with this threat and we will. Stay calm. Be smart. Carry on. And trust the Lord.

Wyatt Emmerich is a columnist, writer and publisher in Jackson. He can be reached at