Day 9: For whom the bell tolls

Wednesday, 25th March

As I write, I hear the bells toll in one of Lyon’s major landmarks, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Bells are ringing in churches across France tonight, in a sign of “fraternity and shared hope” amid the crisis.

In its statement, the French Bishop’s Conference says: “Our desire is that our national community will emerge greater from this ordeal. For many years now, humanity has been aware that it must radically change its way of living.”

I am not a believer but I cannot help wondering whether we will, collectively, emerge greater, and cleverer, from this. It is certainly a brutal reminder that no man is an island. As I speak to friends around the world, they all say this confinement is giving them an unexpected and welcome opportunity to talk with loved ones. To slow down.

For Whom the Bell Tolls
by John Donne
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

That’s for the lucky ones. Then there are all the people on the frontline, working day and night to save lives in so many different ways. And there are all those who don’t have the luxury to slow down, or for whom slowing down means not having enough money to put food on the table and pay the bills.

Governments say they are doing all they can to come up with solutions to help people weather the storm. We will have to see what impact this will have, not only on economies, but on people’s – and children’s – mental health.

I have decided that today I will not take advantage of the late hours to write this blog, once the kids are in bed and I can focus on what I am writing, because I need to get some sleep if I am to take care of my family properly in the day. So good night, and good luck.

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