Human Fragility And Fortitude

I have been thinking about what to write about the events of the past few days. If you are like me, you have kept an eye on the news, but have tried not to sit for hours watching every development minute by minutes – because it is truly frightful.

I spent most of the weekend with a close friend of mine who is terminally ill, and yet is showing amazing strength of heart despite her prognosis. Jack is tied up with lots of phone-calls and online meetings. He speaks Russian and Romanian fluently, and is busy in talks with all sorts of people who are making decisions.

I was able to help my friend to enjoy the snowdrops that are growing just outside her current accommodation. We talked about a famous short story called “Snowdrops”, written by Leslie Norris. Many of us studied this particular story in depth for our GCSE English coursework and exams.

The story which is told through the eyes of a young schoolboy has profound themes – death, grief, human fragility and fortitude, and other moving undercurrents – and the metaphoric allusion to snowdrops. I am not doing a great job of summing it up, but it is a story that has stayed with me for the past twenty years.

Human fragility and fortitude. I think a lot of people were shaken by the Pandemic. Facing unprecedented restrictions freedoms, anxiety over finances, social isolation, and of course for many the suffering of actually being effected severely health-wise by Covid-19, or losing a loved one to the virus. Disagreements with loved ones about vaccines. Frustration with those who seemed to be contributing to the spread of the virus by not following measures put in place to limit it. Cabin fever, leading to increased stress and irritation at home. Outrage about injustices that via social media were witnessed internationally and provoked huge outcry.

It has been a tough two years for many many people – there has been a general feeling of weariness. From around mid-January, I noticed that a lot of people seemed to relax here in the UK with regards to Covid. It may well be due to statistics showing lower numbers of cases and vaccine efficacy, but I think it also had a lot to do with people being anxious prior to Christmas because they did not want their plans to see loved ones to be cancelled, and then once the holidays were over, they seemed to not care anymore. I also noticed a lot of people seizing the opportunity to book holidays abroad as soon as travel restrictions were lifted. Perhaps they hope that two weeks on the beach in the sunshine will help them recover from a challenging two years.

But now….all of a sudden…world events have taken another turn, and I have noticed a very mixed response. Oddly, I have heard some who seem to have no interest in what is going on, and are only concerned whether their football team will win their match at the weekend. I have heard conversations about parties, holidays, shopping trips, meals out at restaurants….and all sorts of recreational events…and some have reacted to anybody mentioning the situation in Ukraine with “Oh, I am not watching any of the news, I don’t want to think about it”.

Although I can understand some of the feelings that might prompt someone to say that, it is also a little concerning that they are giving an impression of indifference to the plight of millions, yet maintaining their enthusiasm for football or Netflix. Yet, I am aware that many people are genuinely exhausted by the demands on them during the Pandemic, and cannot cope with feeling of something so awful.

There are many others of course who despite feeling rather helpless, are deeply concerned with the events in Ukraine, and many are doing what is in their power to help the many hundreds of thousands (or more) who have fled from their homes.

There are fierce winds blowing and shaking people, just the way that late winter freezing winds batter those delicate snowdrops. Humans are so beautiful, so fragile, yet have such an amazing ability to show strength in a hostile environment.