I love the English language. I love how key words and phrases dance out into the public arena and become part of our daily vocabulary during unusual times. Social distancing, self-solation has become part of our daily conversations in these surreal times we find ourselves in, wherever we are in the world. A deadly microbe of a hitherto unknown nature is shutting down normal life.
It is my love of the language, and what pops in my crazy head when I hear something unusual, that made me write a social media status [Note: before the Govt orders became clearer] that read ‘I love the words herd immunity’, only to be pounced upon by folk who opposed the idea in its real sense of the phrase in the current context of social distancing. I had to respond by pointing out that I only said that I loved the words….! So, I reiterate, I am only exploring the words that give meaning to a hearer in this instance not a medical or social phenomenon that makes one form of behaviour acceptable over another. For someone whose mother tongue was not English in her formative years, an unusual phrase or word can arouse various ideas, images and such like that I feel needs to be put out there….for chewing over.
I can’t help but smile when I hear or read the words ‘herd immunity’.
It conjures up so many beautiful images in my head. It may be because I love elephants and having seen herds of them as a child, could not help but marry the two. These creatures (meaning elephants!) walk the wild so graciously and look invincible, yet not scary (if you watch them from a distance of course!). They look formidable yet gentle when moving in huddles protecting their young. The words herd immunity has such a sense of unity and purpose that excites me. It gives an impulsive ‘yes, let’s get this enemy together’ kind of idea in my head. In fact, it has transpired to somewhat of a universal collaborative effort to fight this common enemy we are faced with, even though the medical strategy was not practiced in the current pandemic.
It was just last Spring I jotted my thoughts on an enemy of another sort in my blog The Great Multitude. It was around this time of year, Easter Sunday to be specific, when Christians worshipping in Sri Lanka were attacked by terrorists in multiple churches simultaneously, killing hundreds. I felt deeply for believers who were fearful of worshipping together after this incident. I promised myself then, that I will never take gathered worship for granted.
A year later, we are now globally forced to worship away from our usual corporate worship spaces, in fear of a new threat. We are affected by a common enemy. The response to being unable to meet together has been rapid and extremely creative, thanks to modern technology and social media that we sometimes complain about. In one church, a morning service usually attended by a few hundred people, had six thousand take part in the virtual edition! There are hundreds more of such instances.
What IS God doing? Will we ever go back to our usual forms of worship and remain the same? Will we embrace each other’s differences and be curious of each other’s stories from now on? Have we released our elephants in the room so we can together face the roaring lion outside? Something to ponder in our times of self-isolation and social distancing.
Elephants are sociable creatures, and the commonly used phrase does not actually grant them justice. So, let’s get into the ‘herd’ mentality of these lovely creatures and face the real enemy together. Until we meet again, stay safe and well….