The author Ursula LaGuinn wrote a short story titled The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. In it there is this town called Omelas where everyone feels joy all the time, people are happy, prosperous, and loved, but that euphoria the townspeople came at a price.
To feel joy in the town of Omelas the people must allow for one young child to be in misery and pain. The child is locked up in a room in a basement that’s no larger than a broom closet. The child is scared, maltreated, and alone forever. The child wails in pain, hides in fear, and starved for kindness.
It’s part of the deal for the town to prosper. This child must never feel joy. Everyone in the town knows about the child, but no one does anything to make the child’s life better. The townspeople make excuses. Making the child’s life better means making the townspeople’s life worse.
When the town’s youngsters reach their teenage years, they are encouraged to visit the child to learn the town’s “reason for happiness and prosperity,” but when they are shown the child in the closet and learn this child must live in pain, suffering, and starvation forever, their first reaction is anger or sadness. but given their well being, many come to accept the situation as necessary, but some empathetic souls question the community’s action or inaction. They must choose to go on living prosperously in the town accepting this atrocity or walk away from this nirvana forever.
LaGuinn’s, story feels strangely allegorical in these pandemic times. Should I accept that many more people should die from covid 19 in order to restart the economy so they can feel more joy, contentment, and well being? Or, do I do my best to follow the guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus and STAY AT HOME and suffer the sacrifices necessary so that more people can live?
Personally, I can only control my choices. I am responsible for my own actions to help not spread the virus. So, I promise myself to do these three things:
- I will follow the guidelines recommended by my doctors and elected leaders: to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash my hands and stay at home whenever possible.
- I will not give in to peer pressure by those who try and make me feel bad for following the guidelines. Instead I will use my integrity and “doing the right thing,” follow the guidelines.
- I will ask people to wear a mask in my present. I will stay my distance even as they get closer. A number of people have the mask with them. They just don’t put it on.
I see no joy in another’s death for the sake of my well being. Talking with individuals that caused another’s death either by accident or on purpose, I notice high stress; I see remorse and depression, even after ten years the incident.
Joy comes in the simple act of giving and caring for others. We see this around the Holidays.
I will adapt; I will persevere; and I will survive and do so by caring for the mortals around me.
In story LaGuinn’s story, not everyone accepts the situation of the little boy. Occasionally, adults go back and revisit the child and when they walk away they choose to keep walking away from the town. “They keep walking, and walk straight out of the city of Omelas, through the beautiful gates. They keep walking across the farmlands of Omelas. Each one goes alone, youth or girl, man or woman.”
I choose to walk away — six feet away from people, wearing a mask, or I can just stay at home.
Peace, Joy, Love