‘Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully,” wrote Samuel Johnson, whose mind, without fear of hanging, was concentrated on death throughout his life. Johnson concentrated on death with, in a word, “terror.” He thought, mistakenly, that he was not a good enough Christian, and that nothing pleasing awaited after his demise. None of us is to be hanged in a fortnight, either, but, these days, with the plague of the coronavirus upon the land, all our minds are concentrated on death. Turn on the television or …
This article appears as “Death and the Virus” in the April 20, 2020, print edition of National Review.
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