The Black Death was believed to have started in China in 1334, spreading along the Silk Road and other trade routes, reaching Europe via Sicily in 1347 on ships sailing from the Black Sea. Not long after arriving in Messina, the island capital, the plague spread to the port of Marseilles in France and the port of Tunis in North Africa. By the middle of 1348, the Black Death had struck Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, and London. In total, the plague killed an estimated 50 million people.In this challenging and difficult time, it is wise to counterbalance the darkness with light. We must first take responsibility for our impact on the Earth. We need to recognize the distorted ways we relate to each other and the natural world. We must learn to feel, deep inside, that it is imperative we live for the welfare of the whole. We must begin to build a global community committed to social justice with respect for each other and all forms of life. I am someone who has a strong sense of right and wrong. I feel I have a moral obligation to make choices that contribute to a better world, but not everyone feels the same way. There are individuals, companies and governments who profit from the exploitation of people and the planet and sow confusion to prevent solutions with no direct consequences for their actions.Whatever your opinion on our responsibility for improving the world, it is hard to deny that a healthier climate, greater justice and more equality would be in everyone’s best interests. Nearly two thousand years ago, the stoic philosopher and Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, wrote “That which is bad for the beehive cannot be good for the bee.”The truth is we really do live in a fragile world—in the end, of course, any moment could be our last.
The Better Angels…
“Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason, you sing. For no reason, you accept the way of being lost, cutting loose from all else and electing a world where you go where you want to. Arbitrary, a sound comes, a reminder that a steady center is holding all else. If you listen, that sound will tell you where it is and you can slide your way past trouble. Certain twisted monsters always bar the path — but that’s when you get going best, glad to be lost, learning how real it is here on earth, again and again. ” Cutting Loose, by William Stafford
As I drove through the verdant farmlands on my way to the market Saturday morning, I didn’t pass a single car on the road, which is unusual but not exceptional where I live in southwest France. The Coronavirus quarantine has made every day seem like Sunday, when few people venture out of their homes. Medieval chateaus, hilltop towers, and windmills dotted the countryside. Had I not been in a car I might well have been in the Middle Ages.
In the Middle Ages you were lucky to survive your own birth, or the barrage of childhood diseases that followed, and live to the ripe old age of 40. The majority of people were peasants who worked every day just to ensure their family had a roof over its head and food to eat. Medieval life was hard. It was patriarchal. Class differences were huge. Injustice was rampant. There was plenty of racial and religious discontent. The nobility indulged themselves; the peasants did without. The kings and nobility all vied for more wealth and power until the Bubonic Plague (Black Death) arrived in Europe in 1347.