Wednesday, March 25, 2020

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: Hanging Together by "Hanging" Separately


"We must all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."  Benjamin Franklin  


In the dark and tenuous days of the Revolutionary War, when a haphazard assortment of American colonists had the audacity to declare themselves independent from the most powerful nation on earth, the well-spoken Benjamin Franklin expressed the absolute imperative that the patriots stand united. He declared:

"We must all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."

He meant that the signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as colonists in general, had to help and support each other or they were doomed. The quote encapsulates the urgency and gravity of the situation in that summer of 1776. Unity was essential to achieving victory in the Revolutionary War. Franklin knew they were committing treason by signing the Declaration. The penalty for treason was hanging, and thus they could literally all die if they did not work together.

Although not nearly as foreboding as in 1776, our situation today is deadly serious. Our country faces another grave crisis. Our collective well-being hangs in the balance, and once again, the imperative of standing united is essential. With no small amount of irony, the requirement of hanging together means that we all must hang [out] separately, that we maintain our physical distance so as to not further spread this terrible disease.

These restrictions in many cases constitute a huge sacrifice. Many businesses, especially small businesses, will likely be wiped out. Many workers will lose their jobs or go many weeks without paychecks. Many cherished social occasions, large and small, will vanish. Indeed, my daughter Elisabeth's wedding to her dear Ray was scheduled for this upcoming Saturday with a hundred family, friends, and special guests. They were forced to cancel their large celebration and instead opted for a private ceremony on the back porch of their new home. They hope to have a festive celebration in the future when things settle down.

In these trying times, I find solace and understanding in the viewpoint of Dr. Lindsay Jernigan.

Try this perspective shift. Instead of seeing "social distancing" and travel bans as panic, try seeing them as acts of mass cooperation intended to protect the collective whole. This plan is not about individuals going into hiding. It's a global deep breath - - - an agreement between humans around the planet to be still. Be still, in hopes that the biggest wave can pass without engulfing too many of the vulnerable amongst us.

Here's a simple yet powerful picture.

One last thought: I find the term "social distancing" to be ill-chosen. I think a better term is "physical distancing" - keeping apart physically while doing as much as we can to maintain and even enhance our social connections. Instead of lamenting the many ways we cannot be physically close, we should be more proactive in using the connective tools at our disposal to be as socially and emotionally close as possible. Let's exercise the many options we have in today's digitally-laced world to stay in touch with each other. Now more than ever, we need to fill the world with love, in every way we can.

We must hang together and bind ourselves together, even while we "hang out" separately.

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