THE EARTH by Aria Critchley (16)
The Bubonic Plague was a disease that arrived in Europe by sea in October 1347 when 12 Genoese trading ships docked at the Sicilian port of Messina. The sailors aboard the ships were ravaged by an illness characterized by fever, vomiting, chills and mysterious black boils that oozed blood and pus and caused striking pain. Though Sicilian authorities ordered a medieval quarantine upon the fleet in order to hinder the illness, this malady would later take its course through the entirety of Europe killing off nearly one-third of the population. Many people believed the Black Death to be a divine punishment enacted by a disappointed God but later scientists would understand the large scale epidemic to be the result of germ called Yersina Pestis often spread through air as well as the bite of infected fleas and rats. Historians speculate that the Genoese sailors thought to have introduced the plague to the European continent contracted it from the rodents living aboard their ships. It is disconcerting to think so much death can result from the contingency of a single trifling rat, isn’t it? Yet if it were my family massacred by the Black Death, I would consider that very rat to be the most significant organism to ever cross paths with me.
There is something special about being alive. I am a firm believer that the universe sees and hears every individual and forms cosmic relationships with each respective soul, linking all living things together to create a worldly dynamic of cause and effect. Like dominos, one decision can cascade across multiple lives until it has blanketed the globe. With the billions of events, large and small, that happen everyday the universe has become a network of relationships chained to the next. Somehow, despite this, humans are able to isolate themselves from the other creatures that inhabit earth and even, at times, each other. We forget that the fate of the bees, a rare species of lichen or the nitrogen content in soil is inextricably bound to our own. In 1347, no one dreamed they would perish at the hands of a rodent and yet the seemingly incidental act of letting a rat slip by as the cargo was loaded had catastrophic repercussions.
Human beings are not alone on this planet. The Earth is very much so alive and teeming with energy. We witness the wind and the tides, we hear the birds, and we see the considerable mountains yet do we identify with them? I challenge those who believe there is such thing as a trivial event to find the terror or the beauty within it and truly attempt to find its role within our large and entangled casual nexus. I assure you, it has one. Empathy is the key to saving our strange and breathtaking world. It is of upmost relevance that humans learn to see how we fit into it.