I found myself recently dwelling on impossible to solve issues. It started with a conversation about the fact that we all know that the most certain way back to a safe normal is for people to get the vaccine. Yet people continue to resist or refuse. Only 46% of Montana has had at least 1 shot, and 42% both, meaning fully vaccinated. Then my father age 95, and still driving, ran into a tree. (He is fine – car not so much) He lives independently and refuses to recognize his declining state. We know that story from around here. It becomes a situation without a willing solution. Then, unbidden by me, the equation of pi popped into my head. Pi is an equation without an end. I am not good with numbers (and rather dislike math) and yet pi jumped into my consciousness this morning.
In the world of mathematics (again, a world I do not come close to understanding), pi is a transcendent number, an infinite number. Did pi pop into my head as a way of saying, “seek the infinite in the face of what feels impossible”? In other words, turn to God. On the other hand, did pi pop into my head as a reminder that there are always “impossible” issues to solve and our call is to do the best we can in the face of them?
I remember a story about Florence Nightingale, a famous nurse who paved the path for what we now understand as modern nursing practice. We celebrated nursing on Thursday, so perhaps the story is appropriate. The story I remember, and I hope it is true, came from the cholera outbreak in London when she was in her 30’s. People were holding vigils and constantly praying to God for relief from the outbreak. Praying to God was fine, she said, cleaning up the Thames River would be prudent to the end of stopping the outbreak. The outbreak ended up traced to a water pump along the Thames contaminated from pollution in the Thames.
Praying for relief from COVID is certainly appropriate; receiving the vaccine is prudent to that end. When faced with things that seem insurmountable, we are, never the less, called to act. Each solution will create its own set of problems, but we are responsible for the action. Pray (of course, always), but act; and become vaccinated. Will COVID just go away? It would be nice. However, that is not how a virus works and we know that.
Life’s equations can seem impossible to solve at times. Sometimes they are impossible. We make choices and live with those choices. This, of course, is simply part of being human. No matter how much we think ourselves to be independent, the act of living requires us to find ways of trusting each other, leaning on each other, and living the sort of life that benefits humanity and not just ourselves. None of us is alone in this endeavor of life. However, life does require effort on our part. Clean up the Thames, become vaccinated; and connecting with the transcendent does not hurt either! 3.14159…