[Opinion]“Go forth the Mask is Ended!” – A Meme to Remember
The world indeed is a stage as William Shakespeare wrote some centuries ago. And this stage of the world is akin to the theatrical stage where a lot of actors or characters display their roles. Some of the theatrical plays end up as comedy and others as tragi-comedy. But eventually there comes the climax with the dénouement.
Some characters are remembered and others forgotten. Our world today is tussling with a pandemic called the Coronavirus. Some wish it is just a theatre play which will end soon so that we can go home fantasying about the Acts and Scenes of the play. Others wish there comes a deus ex machina (god from the machine) who can turn our tragedy into happy endings. There are a lot of memes during this period which give us the cause to laugh our worries out.
Logos of companies are redesigned with the mask on thereby educating all and sundry to adhere to the mask wearing protocols. Priests now wear nose masks during the celebration of the Mass and I can just imagine the saintly Mother Teresa of Calcutta wearing her nose mask on the streets of Calcutta attending to the leprous and tuberculosis patients. One of the memes that caught my attention on social media especially Facebook is that of the famous Scott Hahn.
Those who read Scott Hahn know how he plays on biblical words to draw his audience to simpler comprehension of his message. For many, Scott Hahn is a punster who deals with his words to give clearer meaning to his books. According to his Facebook account, he recently shared this: “Words we long to hear: “Go forth, the Mask is ended!” And as a usual reader of comments on Facebook (member of the Comment Reading Association (CRA)) without commenting which I know some of you are members, I scrolled through the comments and read some of them.
As I was doing this, I laughed out loud (LOL) and I realized that even in the midst of fear of the pandemic, globally people are teasing themselves out ways to be happy. The comments that caught my attention are “To mask or not to mask! That is the question!”, “We want to go with Paul on the road to “DeMask Us!” and “Go in peace to breathe and serve the Lord!”. Trying to muse on these comments sets before me not something hilarious but thinking outside the box in times of this pandemic as Christians and lovers of wisdom.
1. To mask or not to mask!
That is the question! The original piece of the above meme is a soliloquy in one of the works of William Shakespeare. This soliloquy is narrated in Shakespeare’s book Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1. In a speech, Hamlet contemplates death and suicide and he utters the words “To be or not to be? That is the question”. Interestingly, when Hamlet was soliloquizing, he was not alone on stage. Ophelia was on stage pretending to read while waiting for Hamlet to notice her. Hamlet was bemoaning the pain and unfairness of life but acknowledging that the alternative might be worse.
Lessons from the first Meme
To mask or not to mask! That is the question! shows us that despite these challenging times of the pandemic when we are asked to wear masks for our own safety and that of the world, we are never alone. Think of it, Hamlet who uttered the original words of this meme was debating with himself the pros and cons of continuing to live while suffering or whether to end his life in order to escape. Nations and people fret about the second wave of the pandemic and a lot of people died because of the pandemic. Just as Hamlet contemplates his angst in these words: ‘To be, or not to be? That is the question… Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them?’ (Hamlet, Acts 3, Scene 1), many of us find ourselves in this same dilemma of what is next to happen to us and the world.
Although, it is a soliloquy, Hamlet was on stage with Ophelia. Many of us are eager to lay the masks down in order that we can go about our normal ordeals. Despite we face the pandemic alone in our homes and nations we are never alone. The whole world is fighting a pandemic which is described as our common enemy. That is when the legitimate meme comes in ‘To mask or not to mask! That is the question!” When we observe and wear our masks, we can protect ourselves and others but when we are tired of wearing it, we can endanger ourselves and others. Let’s stick to the wearing of the mask despite the worrying circumstances around its usage.
2. We want to go with Paul on the road to “DeMask Us!”
Saul’s conversion happened on the way to Damascus when he got letters to go and persecute the Christians in Damascus (Acts 9:2-5). Just as the pandemic is persecuting and slaughtering a lot of lives globally, Saul also breathed murderous threat against the Christian at Damascus. Can we ‘demask’ (lay off our masks) and face the persecuting horrors of the pandemic? In fact, there is something interesting to know about Damascus.
The metaphysical meaning of Damascus, da-mas’-cus (Greek from Hebrew and Arabic) – activity, alertness, in respect to trade or possessions; sack of blood; red sackcloth. These meanings have something to say and admonish us about our present situation as a globe. Just as Damascus means activity, we are expected to do a lot of precautionary works in order to save ourselves and the world. There should be an alertness in us in order to wage a serious war against the common enemy of a virus. There is blood sack to sacks of blood which this pandemic brought about. Many lives and bloods have been poured because of this pandemic. We can travel with Paul or Saul on this road of activity and alertness.
Also, Damascus (meaning sack of blood) signifies a state of consciousness that is founded upon a material concept of life in the body. We are expected to exhibit some amount of consciousness with the safety and the COVID 19 precautionary measures in this period.
Lessons from the second Meme
With the advent of COVID 19, we are always expected to be actively involved in the fight against the pandemic. Passivity is not allowed in this period because it can lead to a lot of damages and deaths. The World Health Organization encourages us to do away with the infodemics and stigmatizations which are more dangerous than the virus. We are to engage in activities that will lead to the healing of the world. One day, the world will remember this period of the pandemic in history and the activities of great men and women especially God will be appreciated.
In times of disaster and pandemics, alertness is a key element for survival. How can we forget ourselves in these times of taking precautionary measures? Can we sit aloof from the pandemic? This is the time for all of us to be on that road of alertness without putting so much stress on ourselves and others. We should remember to help ourselves and others to be alert of the various dangers and ways through which the virus can wage a serious war against humanity.
3. Go in peace to breathe and serve the Lord!
Someone’s response to the meme “Go forth the Mask is Ended!” is “Go in peace to breathe and serve the Lord!”. There are a lot of agitations among people concerning when the wearing of the mask will be ended so that we can breathe the air we naturally breathe every day. The original version of this meme is “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
These words of dismissal at Mass make us ambassadors of the peace and love of Christ that we encountered in the Mass. But the meme “Go in peace to breathe and serve the Lord!” is not in some way out of place. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God which the Hebrew rendered “ruah”. Despite the ravaging nature of the pandemic like the chaos in the beginning of the world (Gen 1:1ff), the Spirit of God which is the ruah is always on us to calm things down. Be not afraid (Lk 2:1-20) are the very words of the Blessed Lord to us in these trying times.
Lesson from the third Meme
To “go in peace” is not just an act of mere dismissal but a means of telling us to go and bring the presence of Christ to all. We should live the peace we have encountered with Christ to the world and our families. We must know that the Spirit of God hovers to give peace to the broken world ravaged by the pandemic.
In order to heal the world in these times, let us breathe in deeply transformation, peace, solidarity, togetherness, and especially the destigmatization of those affected by the virus. These memes are part and parcel of us now and in times to come, we shall look back and re-member (re memor) them and tell the future generation of the global yet solitary war that we waged against the virus. We should not be tired of masking ourselves in order to take the world out of the second wave danger. We are all citizens of the world (as the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes once said that “I am a citizen of the world”) and we must protect the world by wearing our masks.
Source Michael Selasi Combey
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