Pandemics, The Stand, and Fresh Starts

What can we learn from The Stand on fresh starts?


Ryan J. Pelton

1/17/20244 min read

In Stephen King's magnum opus, "The Stand," a post-apocalyptic world emerges from the ashes of a devastating pandemic. 99% of the population is gone and amid the ruins, the lone survivors faced with the daunting task of rebuilding their lives.

As I dove into the narrative (book and series), I contemplated a profound question:

What if we could start over? What if all the failures of the past were undone, and we determined a new life? What would it look like? Feel like?

This exploration goes well beyond the pages of fiction, inviting us to reflect on the possibilities of rebirth in our creative and spiritual lives.

Let’s see how The Stand can be of service:

A Blank Canvas: Learning from the Wasteland

In "The Stand," the world is an obvious Pandemic induced wasteland. Nothing but death and destruction and hopelessness Yet, within this desolation, the characters must find the courage to envision a new world.

Similarly, in our lives, moments of upheaval can be opportunities for rebirth. When a project cannot find an audience, a business or nonprofit never gets off the ground, or a relationship self destructs and crashes to the ground.

We have to ask:

What will rebirth look like now?

In The Stand, Harry Lauder must ask whether he’ll brush off the bullying in his teenage years, and become the hardened Hawk?

Stu Redman must determine how he’ll continue on after being widowed, and lead a group of people to the safety of Colorado.

Frannie Goldsmith must determine what life as an unwed pregnant mother will look like in the New World?

The characters in "The Stand" are not merely survivors but creators of a new reality. And so are we.

Every failure, whether creative or personal, is an opportunity to choose a fresh path, a new reality. We can channel all the pain and loss into hurting ourselves, or channel these creative energies into making something beautiful with our lives and art.

Spiritual Reckoning: Rediscovering Meaning and Purpose

Facing hopelessness, and the end of human resources, is an invitation for a spiritual reckoning. In the wake of a pandemic in "The Stand," the remaining humans must grapple with questions of meaning and existence and purpose.

Sadly, many in the book and series end their lives, or live such desperate lives they only want to harm others and live for themselves.

This mirrors our own moments of introspection, pushing us to explore the deeper dimensions of our lives. The times we realize our human resources are lacking and we need something beyond. We need a fresh start.

One of the brilliant themes in The Stand is the way Stephen King weaves in the spiritual realities of life. Every character must examine what they believe about themselves, humanity, and the world when all is lost. I think this is why we love stories like this and the Walking Dead.

Starting over is an invitation to rediscover meaning. A gift of grace. Harry Lauder wanted to be the tough guy after seeing himself as a wimp. Larry Underwood, after achieving fame and fortune, wondered if any of it mattered.

Just as characters in the novel (and TV series) seek spiritual truths, meaning and purpose after loss, we are invited to the same after every creative endeavor and every loss (big and small).

We must ask what is most important, who do I want to be, and does this project or relationship match my values? Can I do it with integrity?

The Power of Community: Rebuilding Together

What I love about "The Stand" is the ways it brings together a diverse group of survivors, forming alliances that transcend pre-existing boundaries. Having a global Pandemic wiping out 99% of the population certainly helps the cause.

But nonetheless, diverse people must work together for a better future. Of course, this doesn’t happen perfectly, like all end of the world books and shows, but spiritual and creative renewal at its best is a community effort.

Starting over is an opportunity to forge new connections and embrace the power of community in our creative and spiritual endeavors. Asking the questions of who needs to be on my team and in my corner? Who are the toxic ones that need to be let go gently?

The rebuilding process is not a solitary endeavor. It involves collective efforts to rebuild, much like the characters in the novel coming together to create a new society. In our creative pursuits, collaboration will always make our lives and work much deeper and richer.

Confronting Shadows: Overcoming the Past

Characters in "The Stand" grapple with their inner demons as they confront the remnants of the old world. Starting over demands a confrontation with our own shadows—the fears, doubts, and insecurities that may have held us back in the past.

Starting over becomes a cathartic process, allowing for the release of pent-up emotions and creative inhibitions. Confronting the shadows of our past is an essential step toward unleashing the full spectrum of our creative potential.

Perhaps it was that still small voice of the past saying things like:

What a waste of time. What a waste of space. You will never amount to anything. You don’t have the talent to succeed.

The past shapes much of our work and how we deal with it. A fresh start isn't always a bad thing because we have to deal with demons of the past in all their forms. The people in The Stand did just that, for good and ill.

The Quest for a New Future

Each character in "The Stand" embarks on a unique journey of self-discovery and purpose. They all have a vision of the good life in the future. Similarly, starting over beckons us to explore our individual paths, shaping a destiny aligned with our deepest aspirations.

As we redefine our goals and aspirations, the canvas of starting over becomes a sacred space for aligning our actions with our spiritual values, fostering a sense of fulfillment and authenticity.

We get to determine what the future will hold. Who we'll become, who we'll live this life with, and what matters most in our version of success.

"The Stand" offers a mirror to our collective and individual journeys of starting over. It prompts us to ponder the immense potential inherent in rebuilding—both creatively and spiritually. The canvas of renewal invites us to paint with bold strokes, confront our shadows, and forge connections that transcend the remnants of the past.

As we stand at the threshold of a new beginning, let us draw inspiration from the characters in King's masterpiece, embarking on a journey of creative and spiritual renewal—a journey that holds the promise of a vibrant, resilient, and purposeful existence.

Just beware of The Dark Man.