About seventy college students from Texas boarded a chartered a plane from Austin, Texas, to Mexico for spring break two weeks ago. They went against the warnings of White House officials who asked people avoid gatherings of more than ten people and all nonessential air travel.
Now forty-four of the students have tested positive for coronavirus, a University of Texas spokesman told CNN today. Even more alarming, some of the students took commercial flights home. Dozens of other passengers from the chartered flight are being monitored, public health officials said.
These students are unfortunately not the only people to defy stay-at-home orders and put themselves and others at risk.
I live in Dallas, Texas, where some joggers have continued to crowd trails and parks despite repeated requests by public officials not to do so. South African security forces are firing rubber bullets at people defying stay-at-home orders as they attempt to clear streets, parks, and other public places.
California’s governor closed all state parks to cars on Sunday. The mayor of Los Angeles has threatened to shut off water and power to businesses that remain open. On Monday, he temporarily shut down all farmers’ markets across the city.
By contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned to self-isolation for another six days after his health minister was diagnosed with coronavirus. I tweeted the news earlier today along with this response: “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12).
Why is it so difficult for us to stay at home?
Psychologists note that humans crave human touching, which releases chemicals in the brain and body that make us happy. We have developed as a species through collective community, whether in families, tribes, or cities.
But there’s another factor at work as well: balancing individualism with collectivism.
Choosing between what we want to do and what we should do
The first temptation is the foundation of all temptation: “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Be your own god by stealing this or lying about that. Be your own god by what you do on the internet in private. Be your own god by refusing to do what you’re asked to do when it conflicts with what you want to do.
C. S. Lewis noted in The Problem of Pain: “From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the center is opened to it. This sin is committed daily by young children and ignorant peasants as well as by sophisticated persons, by solitaries no less than by those who live in society: it is the fall in every individual life, and in each day of each individual life, the basic sin behind all particular sins: at this very moment you and I are either committing it, or about to commit it, or repenting [from] it.”
Lewis is perceptive as usual. The next time you must choose between what you want to do and what you should do, remember this: if you knew what God knows, you would choose his will every time because you would always understand why it is best for you.
In an email post he sent today, James Clear offers this observation: “Each day is a new battle to say yes to what matters and say no to what doesn’t. Focus is a practice.”