Hit the reset button.

About half of my mechanical problems get solved that way. You reboot the system, and things start to work again. Amazing.

Now, Mother Nature is doing it to us. COVID-19 has shut down about 90% of what we call life. And all we can do now is hope. And wait for the power to come back on.

Can anybody deny we were broken? Frozen in our national silliness. From the presidency on down, we’d become coarse, thin-skinned, self-important and unneighborly. Despite our religiosity, we have been both tribalistic and materialistic. We huddle up. We borrow and spend.

We talk over each other. And we wear our ear buds. Even in public. As if we had nothing to learn from one another. A nation of teenagers.

We’ve been caught up in a mad dash to something I can’t recall and am quite certain we never found.

Now, Mother Nature has hit the reset button. And, the world is given a Walden moment. A chance to strip life down to its essence and rediscover what it means to really live.

But first, we had to get past the anger and frustration of being told to “shelter in place.” That we could no longer go to our favorite restaurant, bar, ballgame or church. That we couldn’t even watch sports on TV! That I can’t go to the beach, to the Smokies, to Dollywood or to THE PROM! That I can’t even attend my own graduation!! Or visit my grandchildren!!!

“WE’RE OVERREACTING!” I screamed at the top of my never-once-had-a-course-in-infectious-disease voice.

Get ahold of yourself.

That’s the voice inside my head talking. This may be war, but it’s the easiest war you’ll ever fight. No one is being asked to defeat Germany and Japan. To go to Vietnam. No one is asking us to march for miles; survive without food, shelter or a hot shower; evade the enemy; take hostile fire; kill other human beings; withstand poison gas or roadside bombs.

We’re being asked to stay home. In our dry, centrally heated, air-conditioned houses with all of their gadgetry and conveniences. Just stay home with your families. Sleep on comfortable mattresses. Not on the wet jungle floor or hot desert sand.

Read poems to your husband or wife. Write letters. Remember those? Work on your Facebook page. Call your mother.

Talk.

If you’re alone, call or email somebody. Anybody. Ask for help. If you can drive, go to the animal shelter and help walk the dogs. That’s the easy part. It’s a new way to spend our days, but none of it is painful.

The hard part will be the sickness and death. Joe Diffie just died. So will a lot of other people. Most likely some you know.

While most of us are home enjoying extra time with our families, the health care workers among us will be in the trenches fighting our invisible enemy. Going without sleep. Skipping meals. Missing their families. Putting their lives on the line.

So, two weeks in, has it come to you yet? Have you rediscovered that all that really matters is love? And that so many of our past “successes” were lies that left us with little more than a mouthful of ashes and a few likes on the internet? That most of our “failures” were only temporary setbacks that may have bruised our egos but taught us valuable life lessons that can help us live more successfully? And I don’t mean live richer or more famously. I mean successful at what matters most. Your primary relationships. That’s the ballgame.

One of the oldest happiness studies ever conducted began after World War II and is still going on. Its subjects were Bostonians — half of whom went to Harvard and half of whom did not. One might expect the Harvard crowd to be happier. They are not. The biggest determiner of happiness turns out not to be degrees, money, fame and accomplishments. Turns out it’s the quality of your primary relationships. How you get along with family and friends. When the last respirator is switched off and this virus is vanquished, the world may celebrate, but our hearts will be broken. Some of us will be dead. But we will mourn our losses together. And, for a while, we will remember what really matters. That whether you’re Democrat or Republican — or Chinese, American, Italian or Mexican for that matter — we’re all human beings together. Members of one human family on this little lifeboat we call Earth.

Deep inside we already knew all of this. That buying things won’t make us happy and that family time is the best time. You don’t need me to tell you. It’s stamped on your heart.

Whether you’re a disciple of Jesus or Jehovah, Krishna or Confucius, Muhammed or the Buddha, the mission is basically the same. To love and to serve. That’s real living.

Did I mention how much I love hitting the reset button?

Buzz Thomas is a retired Baptist minister, attorney, school superintendent and longtime Blount County resident and occasional columnist for The Daily Times.

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