Because of the swine flu, and not wanting to be a swine fool, I have found myself today reading about the flu in general.
I remember how surprised I felt when I first learned about the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic which infected about 20% of the world's population, of that 20% who were infected up to 5% of those died! That means about 50-100 million deaths world wide from the Spanish Flu. Almost all of these deaths took place within less than a year!
(Knowing this, it is understandable why governments would be so quick to sound the alarm whenever a new flu strain strikes, however unlikely it may be to create a pandemic.)
I am sure I must have been taught, at least somewhat, about the Spanish Flu in High School history courses, but I guess it wasn't emphasized enough for me to have any memories of it.
When I first begun to study the Spanish flu on my own, I felt amazed that something so enormous and devastating, could have taken place so recently yet be discussed so infrequently(I wonder if it is more commonly known in other countries). Yet, interestingly, the Black Plague, which happened about 700 years ago is something most people have heard of and are somewhat familiar with. I would expect that with all the news coverage about Swine Flu more references would be made to the Spanish Flu, yet of the 100,000 news articles on Swine Flu brought up by Google, only about 2,000 of those make reference to the Spanish Flu. (Interestingly, there is a Government website devoted to an in depth examination of the Spanish Flu in the United States, which I found engrossing).
I can imagine that for religious of that time it must have seemed obvious that the end of the world was soon at hand, with 2 world wars, plagues, famines, complete economic collapse happening all within a time frame of only a few decades.(Plus Israel was beginning to be re-settled by Jews at this time)
Reading about Flu Pandemics led me to read about the Flu Virus itself. Not having had much education in biology most of the specifics about the Virus were over my head, but looking at pictures of the Virus and reading about its functioning causes a certain amount of awe and wonder at the elegance of these viruses and that all around and inside of us are billions these tiny machines as complex as an automobile.
Reading about Flu pandemics, one naturally draws parallels in their mind to the Holocaust and other similar man made catastrophes, yet what most amazes and in some ways disturbs me is that while these little machines can collectively cause such world wide devastation to a species whose intellect and capabilities exceed its own by such immense proportions I wouldn't even know how to describe, it has no sense of consciousness or purpose.
Looking at the two pictures below and imaging them infecting 20% of the world, it is hard to not imagine them as having a consciousness and motive.
While my sense of reason tells me these beings, while in some sense 'alive', are little more than than mechanical doing all they can to reproduce. But even language like that gives them a sense of will and consciousness. It is not as if there is a little mind inside each one trying and wanting to reproduce, let alone infect a person, let alone kill them, it is just something that happens. Somehow, when molecules are arranged in this amazingly complex pattern it causes them to divide and infect and sometimes kill. It is amazing to me not just that such things do exist but that they CAN exist. That because of the particular way our Universe is composed, when certain fundamental building blocks come together in certain ways they then take on amazing properties that can also have devastating consequences. As grand and awe inspiring as things like stars and moons appear to us, something as seemingly simple as the flu virus is far more complex, and to me, inspires wonder and awe.
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