by Henry Meininger


Henry Meininger. Photo by Kevin LeClair


The coronavirus pandemic reminds me of the story of Job. In pre-Biblical times, Job, a decent man, was stricken with all kinds of inexplicable trials and hardships. Yet, he never lost his faith in God. Is that what we are facing now? A test of our inner strength? Our ability to survive a plague that we do not understand?

I have written elsewhere that the creation of our world is so much more complex than the human mind can perceive. Has the time come when we need to go beyond the conventional explanations, and accept a larger vision? Time to embrace my favorite concept: Accepting. That accepting is the best we can do. That we don’t know. That we will never know. That the only certainty is uncertainty. And it is in that spirit that, like Job, we can deal with the inexplicable—in our case, with the coronavirus.

So now that we have to stay at home, many of us alone, and not socialize, what keeps us from going crazy, become depressed, give up? Might it be thinking? I am thinking of the dethroned king, in Shakespeare’s “Richard II”, sitting alone in the tower and occupying his time thinking. It’s a great scene and beautiful poetry.

Is that how we can occupy our enforced aloneness? Thinking? Ushering in change leading to a better world? Perhaps that is what Job did so very long ago, accepting a plague without understanding, and thereby surviving.

I have recently been emailing with Elliott Morss, a friend of more than 30 years, who now lives in Lenox, MA, about how we think, and how we are not equal. He thinks and writes based on data, in line with the digital age and the internet. Modern. I think and write conceptually, anecdotally, intuitively. Old-fashioned. Both are valid.

But that may be the result of our heritage. He comes from a wealthy family in Boston; his father was a banker and his grandfather an industrialist. I came to this country with three dollars. More important, my heritage is middle class, German Jewish. Different. It is accepting that difference that cements our friendship.

If it were based on tolerance or neighborliness or other nice precepts, it would be more vulnerable, as we learned in Germany some 80 years ago. As I was writing this, a young lady knocked at the door. I hobbled over to tell her that we have resolved not to let anyone come in, that any deliveries should be dropped on the porch, which she did.

The accompanying message said, “The coronavirus has changed our lives and many of our seniors are staying safely at home. The Senior Stars Program has received a grant from the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation, who are concerned about the well-being of our seniors in our county. Through their generosity we are able to provide this care package of hard-to-find items (tissues, toilet paper), as well as items to keep seniors safe (soap bars, hand sanitizer) and a few snacks. Enjoy and most importantly, stay safe!”

While much of the news, whether emanating from radio, TV or the internet, is often misleading, contradictory, self serving and confusing, it is not quite so punishing, although not welcome either, to retreat into isolation and liken our dilemma to the story of Job, who, over 5,000 years ago, was smitten with hardships he did not understand and who, nevertheless, kept the faith in God.

I like that story. I think that we too shall survive. I keep my faith in the magnificence of creation, in America, the country that allowed me to live a long and productive life, and its people, particularly my neighbors in the HomeStyle region—Columbia County, the Berkshires and the Capital District—who helped me build HomeStyle, the magazine of Home and Good Living.

So, here we are, Edith, my wife of 60 years, and I, sequestered in the old farmhouse we bought 50 years ago, relegated to a life with just each other. In our long and good marriage we have had some disagreements, probably due to the difference of our upbringing. This is a good time to think about who we are: she from a Russian/Jewish family and I from a German/Jewish family. Different. Not equal. Someday all people will accept each other as they are.