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home : opinion : opinion July 6, 2020

4/28/2020 9:55:00 AM
This Too Shall Pass

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer


I can't absolutely confirm the validity of this explanation, but I have known for many years that contrary to popular belief, the phrase "This too shall pass" is not (in those words) to be found anywhere in the Bible.  The phrase is a piece of Persian wisdom.  This explanation, found online, was penned by one Phillip Pugh.  I don't know Mr. Pugh--he may be a Florida attorney (I found one by that name online) and I can't attest to his credentials as a historian, but the tale is similar to one I have heard before and seems very likely.  It goes:

It comes from a Yiddish tale about King Soloman.

King Soloman wanted to teach Benaiah a lesson in humility. He told Benaiah “I have heard rumors of a fabulous ring that has a unique power. When a sad man gazes upon it, he becomes happy, but when a happy man gazes upon it, he becomes sad. Find this ring and bring it to me.”

Benaiah set out in search of the ring, but no one had ever heard of such a ring. He was about to give up when he spotted a junk shop. Benaiah approached the owner and described the object of his search.

“A ring that cheers the sad and saddens the cheerful?” said the junk dealer. “Come inside.”

They entered the shop. From a boxful of baubles the junk dealer took a plain, silver ring. He engraved some words on it and gave it to Benaiah. Benaiah read the inscription, nodded sagely, and headed back to the palace.

King Solomon was expecting an unsuccessful and humbled Benaiah. So when Benaiah strode in and handed him the ring, the king was taken aback. Inspecting it, he read the inscription and laughed, “It was I who needed a lesson in humility,” he said. “This ring has reminded me that wealth and power are fleeting things.” King Solomon removed his costly rings and slipped on the ring from the junk shop.

The Yiddish phrase that was engraved on the ring:

GAM ZU YAAVOR (“This too shall pass”)

I share this story as a preface to a 'future history' lesson I'm about to pen.

Medicine is not an exact science. What works for one patient may not work for another. Most drugs have potential benefits and often side effects that may prevent their use in all cases. History, fortunately, is a bit more exact. While there may be variances in the accounts of what happened in the past, most of the information from various sources will be similar, and it is for that reason that we can (and should) learn from history.

The 1918 flu pandemic began with a case in the midwestern US (Kansas) but it didn't become a major event until months after that first case in March 1918. It appears that the flu was taken to Europe by US troops in World War I and then brought back home as they returned. The pandemic in this country didn't begin until August-September 1918. It essentially ended in March 1919.

While we hope for a vaccine that might prevent COVID-19 or for a medicine that might improve the survival rate of those who get it, neither of those outcomes was a part of what ended the 1918 flu pandemic. No flu vaccine was available until the 1940s and one that specifically targeted the H1N1 flu (the type that created the 1918 pandemic) wasn't developed until the H1N1 epidemic of 2008-2009. No 'miracle drug' was created that could cure the flu. It was instead the steps that cities took that are very similar to what is being done now to slow the spread of COVID-19 that worked to slow, then end, the pandemic.

Many are frustrated by the restrictions that have been put in place. Protests have been held in Raleigh, Columbia, and other state capitals asking for an end to them. This Saturday, a group will hold a protest in downtown Lincolnton.

Some will argue that President Trump, the WHO, and others were too slow to act in battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The truth is that whatever had been done, it is likely to have occurred anyway. The actions of leaders could (and still can) either aggravate the situation or mitigate it. In the 1918 pandemic, some US cities were quick to impose restrictions. New York limited businesses to half-day operations--some in the morning, some in the afternoon---to cut down on the number of people on the subway system at the same time. St. Louis imposed restrictions early, but then, pleased that it had experienced fewer cases and deaths than other cities, lifted the restrictions and created a 'second wave' of the flu. Those cities which had the restrictions earliest and kept them longest had far less cases and deaths than those who did nothing.

The current stay-at-home order, etc. has only been in place about a month. It took seven months (September-March) for the 1918 pandemic to subside. It may take just as long for the COVID-19 pandemic to run its course.

It appears likely that regardless of what we do--'reopen' stores immediately or keep the restrictions in place longer--the COVID-19 pandemic will last several more months.  There is, of course, a difference: opening things up now will result in more cases, more deaths.  

Another piece of the history that is worth remembering: the 1918 pandemic did not return in the Fall of 1919 or in the ensuing years.  People did not go around wearing face masks during the 'roaring 20s.'  The so-called 'new normal' may be true for this Fall or perhaps next year, but eventually, things will return to much the same as they were prior to the pandemic.  I base that opinion on history, and I say it while contemplating a truth that many have spoken:

This, too, shall pass.



3 - City of Lincolnton - Recycle Friday

 
 
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3 - Lincolnton Animal Hospital - July 2020




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