In Douglas Adams’ classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the largest computer ever made works night and day to answer the question ‘What’s the meaning of life, living, the Universe and everything’. It comes up with an answer, eventually, and it is … 42. Today was the forty-second day of the lockdown and no answer even remotely like this has yet surfaced.
Meanwhile Trump and Pence prowl around (without facemasks) like angry customers at a garage, enraged that their vehicle hasn’t been fixed yet, conveniently overlooking that they were the ones who broke it in the first place.
Talking to people (on-line: of course!)I find I sometimes run into some opposition when I mention that this can also be a time of opportunity and reflection, if we choose to make it so. Not for everyone, comes the reply, and then follows a series of comments about the less fortunate and the hardest hit.
Please – no one is turning a blind eye to those who are suffering. The million people who have the disease in its severe form and the 60,000 dead are indeed frightening facts, and let’s not forget all those who have lost their livelihoods, and whose lives may never ‘go back to normal’. If we think our world will return to the same mess it was before then we may probably strive to make sure that this is so. In our bones, though, we know that some things will have to change.
Let’s start thinking about how that can happen – even with the lack of leadership in the White House. There are more of us than there are of those self-serving lackeys.
Today’s good weather clearly brought people out of their homes. There was more traffic, for example, and plenty of people seemed to be out and about as Spring worked its magic on us all. Even though we know it’s not all over yet, and may not be for some time to come, what I like is the human spirit that said, I choose to live my life rather than stay locked in. I’m not advocating doing anything dangerous. Remember the numbers: over a million cases were recorded today, with just short of 58,000 deaths. Vice “president” Pence declined to use a facemask in public, but we all know he’s a whack job. What I’m suggesting is that we all have to find a way to live with this ghastly threat, to cope with it sensibly, and not to be paralyzed by fear.
Forty days in the wilderness – that’s the Biblical term – but we still don’t seem to be in sight of the Promised Land or anything much. Still, if nothing else, many of us are learning how to be more patient. Others are beginning to realize that we can’t keep messing with Nature without some sort of negative reaction.
On Tuesday (tomorrow as I write) my neighbor goes for his second cancer surgery, after having been delayed for several weeks because of this virus. His surgery is vital and urgent; his cheerful refusal to descend into gloom at the delay has been heroic. A lesson for us all, I feel.
I set about digging a new vegetable patch. It began to rain and I tidied thing up, then looked down and saw this. Here’s wishing us all good luck.
The news that the “president” will no longer give his daily briefings because they’re “not worth the effort” is both disappointing and insulting. So we, the public, are not worth talking to?
I’m puzzled by him and Dr. Birx. I cannot imagine what they will gain from all this lying, from all these deaths. What would make anyone do what they’re doing, selling their souls, Faustus-like? Money? Power? Surely they neither of them command any respect any more.
What we are witnessing is a dramatic moral lesson. Their behavior asks us to reflect on our own lives: what would we sell our souls for? Would we do that? I like to think of what the hearts and souls of our heroic medical responders (and others) are demonstrating again and again – that the souls of those who are helping to solve this problem are not for sale.
Let’s learn that lesson. Let’s treasure it. Our souls are not for sale.
Todays’ major event was the haircut. Of course, I drank my usual gallon of bleach first, as recommended by our ‘president”. [ No, I didn’t.]
The clippers arrived, finally (massive demand at Amazon had ensured a long wait) and the instructions were perused. So, actually, were the Youtube videos of how to cut your own hair, all of which featured men far more handsome than me, with far shorter hair to begin with, who were effortlessly transformed into style icons. But they all had far less curly hair than I do. I was beginning to feel this could turn out to be other than the full-color brochure suggested.
A robust sense of the absurd was called for.
Fortunately my wife was on hand to take over the entire operation. If you ever need a haircut and no barber is available, find an artist. They’ll see you right every time.
I now have my new lockdown haircut. I’m pleased with it, but then, you know, I don’t actually have to look at it unless I pass a mirror. And I have a hat.
Today was Shakespeare’s birthday (as I’m sure you all knew). He’d be 456 if he were still alive, and that was more candles than I had on hand so I just sang him a happy birthday or two as I washed my hands.
One of the big lessons that Shakespeare can share with us is that when the plague came to London and shut all the theatres, as it did on several occasions, he didn’t just mope. As far as we can tell he turned his hand to long poems. We don’t read them as much these days, but at the time they were immensely popular.
Shakespeare also had many other life-affirming things to say, but for us, today, it might be enough to know that he showed us an important truth: Never Give Up.
The signs of our changed life are subtle. I noticed today the small piles of objects at the kerbside, the household items people are leaving out as freebees. It’s unusual to see so much mid month. Then it occurred to me that even if some people are cleaning out their basements (there’s a particular ‘look’ to such items) quite a few of these abandoned articles seem to be the remnants of those who are moving. The young people who perhaps rented a room, who worked in Cambridge, and would be seen on the buses most mornings – those buses that now run empty – are leaving their rentals now the work has dried out. They’re moving home, perhaps. They certainly aren’t here anymore.
And perhaps that's not an altogether bad thing. Perhaps young people will start to think about whether they want to rent one room, at high rent, in a shared apartment, and be overworked. Living far away from friends and family may seem like 'freedom' for a while, but sometimes the psychic costs can be high. Perhaps this is a time when we can all revisit what we expect from 'work' and consider how we want to live.
The relief of deciding not to take the doom and gloom of the media seriously is, well, delightful. I’m not hiding my head in the sand. I’m choosing not to be distressed by that which I cannot control.
I mention this because the “president” is adept at causing confusion, dis-information, and panic. Constant contradiction swirls around him like a bad smell.
It’s always easier to talk ourselves into a place of inaction, negation and criticism. It’s what humans do best. Ask anyone who’s ever had a great idea and then fought to get it noticed. It’s a learned response, though. It’s a reaction that throws away imagination in favor of despair. What’s the story we’re telling ourselves about who we are?
It’s astonishing to me that in this land of optimism, innovation, and can-do energy that we’ve been reduced to a state of fear by a combination of a virus and a disordered governing class. Where are the people who are talking about what we can do to stay healthy? Where are those who are redesigning our health care system so this doesn’t happen again? Where are the planners, the innovators, the creative thinkers?
I know they’re out there. They’re just not getting much of a look in.
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