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Climbing the curve

This is what living within a big historical event looks like

Climbing the curve

(Victor J. Blue/Getty Images)

In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien portrays his hobbit heroes toiling up a long, winding stairway that perhaps looks like early April’s rising curve of coronavirus cases and deaths. Sam Gamgee says he once thought adventures “were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for.” Sam realizes “that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind.” Frodo agrees: Those in a hard adventure never know “what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending.” 

Sam then wonders “if we shall ever be put in songs or tales. We’re in one, of course, but I mean: put into words, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: ‘Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring!’ And they’ll say: “Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn’t he, dad?”

All of us are in a big story now, the biggest of this century so far. The photo of a woman wearing an N95 mask as she crosses the Brooklyn Bridge (above) brings back memories of 9/11, where thousands covered in the ash of dead human beings staggered across that bridge. The death count now is larger, and it’s nationwide—no, worldwide. But amid sudden hospitalization and sudden unemployment, every once in a while it’s important to stand back, take a breath, and realize: This is what living within a big historical event looks like.

WORLD’s job is to chronicle that event for our readers, our listeners, and those who years afterward will say, “Let’s hear how they fought the coronavirus in 2020.” They’ll want to know how brave healthcare workers risked their lives and pastors creatively communicated with their scattered church members. They’ll want to know how supply chains stayed open and children kept learning. We hope you’ll not only read this issue but listen to our daily podcast and go to for dozens of internet-only stories.

Chronicling a world at war against tiny, invisible invaders is risky business. Frodo says, “You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: ‘Shut the book now, dad; we don’t want to read any more.’” But Good Friday reminds us to keep reading. As Sam says, dangers “made into part of the great tales are different.” The Coronavirus War, 2020, is a hard and great tale.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books: His latest is Abortion at the Crossroads. Marvin resides with his wife, Susan, in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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  • Hawkdriver
    Posted: Thu, 04/09/2020 07:59 pm

    Very well written.  Thank you

  • Laura W
    Posted: Mon, 04/13/2020 03:01 pm

    Sometimes I wish I had Sam's way with words.

  •  dcsfoyle's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/13/2020 03:20 pm

    WORLD, my wife and I particularly thank you for your coverage of this crisis. I've been a reader close to 30 years and now, more than ever, WORLD has been a breath of fresh air. It's no small blessing to have well reported news from people with integrity. Between WORLD and Dr. Alber Mohler's The Briefing, my family is well covered for our news.


  • Kingdomnetworker
    Posted: Wed, 04/15/2020 11:35 am

    From the picture, I thought for a moment were going to see a picture of Emily Beltz on the Brooklyn Bridge, with her reporting from NY!  Precious little  other reporting from that city comes from an evangelical perspective. 

    Thanks Marvin (and Emily)