Beth Emhoff is not very likable. She is a fictional character played by Gwyneth Paltrow in the 2011 film “Contagion”.
(For me, Paltrow was the perfect person to play her. She is also unlikable.)
Beth comes back to the United States after a business trip to Asia and makes a stopover in Chicago to meld with her lover. At home waiting for her is her husband Mitch (Matt Damon).
Although Beth is not a very nice person, what happens to her after she gets home shouldn’t happen to anyone. She has seizures and surprisingly dies.
Beth is a young woman. So is her son, six-year old Clark. He catches whatever Beth has and also passes away.
They are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the effects of the illness that killed them. Eventually, the virus multiplies and becomes a pandemic, causing the deaths of millions around the globe.
“Contagion” is a flick that explores such a disaster from different perspectives. It shows how the general population might react. As expected, mankind doesn’t handle the epidemic well.
Different segments of society deal with the disease in their own way. The politicians and medical people who have advance knowledge of the spread of the illness arrange to get preferential treatment.
The rest of the poor saps are left to their own devices. Mobs turn violent in some cases to save their own hides.
One particularly heinous human in “Contagion” is a blogger by the name of Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law). He fancies himself an investigative journalist, when in reality he is a narcissistic conspiracy theorist seeking to use the pandemic for his own selfish ambitions.
On the other hand, the film also reveals that people can be heroic. Indeed, “Contagion” really concerns the brave exploration of the medical folks who seek to stem its effects.
The doctors seeking a cure for the disease risk their own lives. One physician working for the American Center for Disease Control (CDC) actually succumbs to the illness.
Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliot Gould) courageously defies orders from the CDC to destroy his work. His actions moves the needle forward in discovering a vaccine.
The ultimate risk taker in “Contagion” is physician Ally Hextall. She develops a promising vaccine and in order to expedite its distribution, she injects herself with it to make sure it works. Dr. Hextall exposes herself to her father, who has contracted the disease.
As a result of her deed, the vaccine is made available in bulk to the world in as timely a fashion as possible.
The doctors of “Contagion” are fictional role models. They seek to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. including human opposition, and continue to explore ways to stop the pandemic. It is eventually stopped in its tracks.
A couple of men from the Bible are similar to these heroic physicians. Joshua and Caleb are among 12 Israelite spies sent forward to explore ancient Palestine in order to determine the feasibility of conquering the natives.
God had promised the area to Abraham. His descendants were on their way through the desert to take the Lord up on his offer. They had just escaped Egypt through God’s miraculous intervention at the Red Sea (an event popularized in modern culture, including in the classic film “The Ten Commandments”).
Despite God’s work on their behalf, the Israelites wavered when most of the spies brought back bad news: the people in the land were giants and thus impossible to defeat.
Joshua and Caleb did not agree. Their minority report noted that the same God who brought the people out of Egypt in the face of a huge army and wrathful ruler could help them win in Palestine.
It was not to be. The Israelites stayed in the desert.
It was 40 years later, after almost all of this cowardly generation had died, that Joshua and Caleb led the nation to victory and won the land.
It behooves me and my fellow believers in the God of the Bible to follow the actions of these two men. Surely they had to put up with annoying delays, dangerous enemies, and indifferent neighbors. However, they persevered and won in the end.
On a personal level, I need to emulate the doctors of “Contagion” and Joshua and Caleb. I am working on a major project that today just about caused me to tear my hair out.
There is no reason for the project not to be accomplished, at least on my end. However, some people are standing in the way, folks that should know better.
In order to do the tasks required to meet the demands of the project, I need these people. Unfortunately, I am dealing with some difficult folks. Some are narrow minded. They refuse to look at the big picture and stay mired in minutiae.
Others are indifferent. They just don’t care about helping me and don’t want to be bothered.
I am having the same problems on the institutional level as well. One key element in the project is being handled by two different organizations. The group who must perform the first steps in accomplishing this task requires things done a certain way. On the other hand, an outfit which is responsible for taking the first group’s work and completing have their own approach.
Guess who is caught in the middle? You guessed her, Chester. Yours truly. I have been Ground Zero the Emails flying between the key stakeholders entire day.
This morning as I encountered these problems I did some soul searching. I began to wonder if God was in it.
One fellow helping me, a believer, prayed with me, seeing my obstacles as the devil’s work. (I surely see over regulation that way!)
Whatever the truth is, I am spending a lot of time and money as I bang my head against the wall.
However, as I view the docs of “Contagion” and the heroes of the Bible, I see virtues worthy of copying. They kept seeking to move the needle forward in accomplishing their goals. They persevered.
As I wrote in my journal this morning, I thought that my perspective must be two-fold. As I face my obstacles, I have to take my hands off and let God work when I encounter them. In the meantime, I need to keep pushing forward, keep exploring and seeking answers, until it is absolutely clear that my task is impossible, or until I gain victory.
It’s the only way to maintain sanity when meeting up with any problem.