Posted by: Sandy Graham | March 23, 2020

Virtual Virality

I’m 81 and a little overweight. (MY wife sometimes forgets to include the word “little”.) Nevertheless, these are the attributes coveted by COVID-19 which naturally leads to some concern on my part. Recently, I found myself very short of breath and, not wanting to recognize I’ve been a computer potato for weeks, began to suspect the virus. Two mornings I woke up with a tightness in my chest and took a while to amend that to further down than my poor old lungs could possibly have sagged. Frequently my forehead feels warm but turns out to be normal. All these false signals have brought on the realization that it’s time to be more positive. In fact, it reminds me of the story of the big brave Dutchman. If you’ve heard it, skip ahead.

The Dutchman lived in the early 1800’s, A giant of a man, strong as an ox but a gentle soul. He loved the sea and as he often did, signed on with the crew of a sailing vessel. Their voyage started uneventful, modest winds and decent weather. That ended off the coast of Morocco when a crewman fell from the rigging into the water. Unable to swim and with shark fins not far away, he appeared doomed. The Dutchman leaped into the ocean and reached the man barely ahead of the first shark. He punched it in the nose, grabbed the drowning man and with powerful strokes swam back to the ship.

Crews cheered and the Captain thanked him for saving the man. He simply shrugged and said, “It’s nothing. I’m the big brave Dutchman. That’s what I do.”

The journey continued until one day they found themselves becalmed in a hot, equatorial expanse of glassy sea. For days they sweltered, water supply dwindled, men were fading fast. The First Mate lamented that they would all perish if they didn’t get wind soon. The Dutchman said, “I’ll get us out of this stinking hole.” He climbed into a dinghy and with a rope attached to the ship started to row. Gradually they began to move. He rowed hour after hour until finally they felt a first breeze. When the wind picked up, he climbed back aboard a hero again. Once more, he shrugged it off. “I’m the big brave Dutchman, it’s all in a day’s work.”

After months at sea, they were returning up the coast of France when a violent storm struck suddenly. Sails were torn, rigging snapped, the ship pitched wildly. The Captain shouted, “We need to get the topsails furled or we’ll broach.” Only one man ventured forth. The Dutchman yelled over the howling wind that he would do it. He climbed through shredded rigging to the very top of the mast, furled one sail, then a second, third and fourth. The ship was now safe but still rolled in the heavy sea.

Sizing up his situation, the Dutchman thought the easiest way down would be to drop into the water and swim back aboard. He would carefully time it for when the mast carried him out over the side. But when he let go, he mistimed it and hit square in the middle of the deck, crashed right on through it. Aghast, crew-members screamed, “The Dutchman’s dead!” as they ran to the hole and peered down. A hole in the lower deck as well revealed the Dutchman spread-eagled in the bilge. He finally opened his eyes and when he saw them all wailing up above, he called out, “Calm down. I’m the big brave Dutchman. I’ve been through hardships before.”

I hear you groaning. Point is, I need to be more like the big brave Dutchman, stop manufacturing imaginary symptoms and descending into the realm of virtual virality.

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