Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Love In The Time Of COVID-19

Well look at that--big fat flakes are coming down and things could hardly look festiver. It's mid-March and this is certainly not unprecedented, but it's still a surprise, and I can't remember if we had any snow this winter. In fact the winter has seemed unusually mild. Our normal winter days are rainy and top out in the mid-forties, but it's been a good ten degrees warmer than that, enough to make me wake up in the middle of the night and kick off my beloved slab of blankets and fret about what summer will be like on our new, remodeled planet.

What else? Oh. There's a new virus in town, perhaps you heard. If you drew a Venn diagram of People Who Should Be Real Worried and Me, you'd have one big dark circle. Nevertheless I find myself not real worried. This is mainly a matter of principle. Worry has always been the least helpful tool in my kit and often as not I can't even find it in among the store receipts, pennies, and itty bitty screws.

I am not yet a complete dunce, however, and have adopted all the protocols recommended by scientists in the Deep State, a.k.a. the remaining still-functional bureaucrats whose salaries I am happy to pay with my tax money. Even though I am well over sixty I believe I would survive an infection. I worry more about Dave, who, despite being apparently bionic in fundamental ways, was a smoker of long standing, and the creative things he can do with a simple respiratory ailment are legendary around here. We're hunkering down.

The thing that's weirder about my state of mind is that I find all of this actually exciting, in almost the same way I find our imminent mega-earthquake exciting. I'm always impressed by massive real events beyond our control. Things that shake us up. In this case we have a tiny item, a virus, which, like all other living things, is doing its level best to reproduce itself, which it must do inside a "host"--in this case bats, or us. "Host" is a mighty accommodating word and suggests a degree of hospitality we might not actually feel. "Mark" might be a better term. The virus catches a ride on a suitable cell and shlorps itself inside, where it cajoles the cell into helping it replicate, slips on a new jacket, and busts out of Dodge, which is real bad for Dodge, and then it hops the next available mark, eventually existing in, conceivably, half the world's human population, plus a number of bats.

Meanwhile, we continue to hurtle toward environmental doom, even though we know full well what we need to do about it--because we knew we needed to do it fifty years ago. No politician on the planet could overcome the stubborn short-sightedness of our rapacious consumption. The disruption to our economic system would be so severe that people will not consider the far heavier price of doing nothing. The entire system needs to be overhauled, and there's little support or political will for that. Certainly not among the plutocrats, and not among the powerless serfs so easily gulled by them. I always vote as hard as I can, but it's clear to me that only some crazy outside catastrophe could turn this ship around.

But looky here: commerce is grinding to a halt. The transportation sector is nosediving. Unearned treasure is losing its value. The systems are crumbling. A crafty 120-nanometer sphere of protein and DNA has done this. It's a little viral miracle.

Scientists don't agree on whether viruses are living or not. They can't generate their own energy or live for long outside their hosts. But they're hardly inert. They're as successful as an internet rumor. Or xenophobia, which spreads rapidly but can't exist for long outside Fox News.

So that's what's filling my sails. There is something right now that has managed to bind all us individual hosts together, all over the globe. We are in a state of heightened awareness of each other's basic humanity, of what we have in common, what we each need, what we need from each other, and what we can live without. And we finally understand that what we do affects everyone else. This virus dissolves false boundaries.

We might as well call it Empathy.

61 comments:

  1. Pfft. Your last paragraph. Maybe that's what is going on where you live. Here... not so much. People were fighting in the big box stores over toilet paper and cartons of bottled water. Making my usual grocery run on Monday, I saw entire aisles empty of all merchandise. Fortunately, I always buy the biggest sizes of everything, figuring that it's cheaper and we'll use it anyway. But, yeah... here it's every person for themselves. And we stocked up on booze, because this all doesn't so much stimulate any of the softer emotions with me, just depression and anxiety.

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    1. We just laid in 13 cases of IPA ourselves.

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    2. I'm stockpiling Corona Light. I mean, that's the vaccine for the Corona virus, isn't it?

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    3. AND if you add a wedge of lime to your Corona, you're protected against Lyme disease as well!

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  2. Well look at that--big fat flakes are coming down

    Right now I'm more concerned about the big fat flakes who are running the country.

    even though we know full well what we need to do about it--because we knew we needed to do it fifty years ago

    Good point. If we'd exterminated all the bats fifty years ago, we wouldn't be in this mess now.

    We are in a state of heightened awareness of each other's basic humanity

    Well, some of us are. Some people are in heightened mountains of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and tough luck on anybody else who might need some. Yes, disasters bring out the best in most people, but for those who are empathy-deficient anyway, it can make them even worse.

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    1. That is no doubt true. Hey, we can always count on you to suggest something like Bat Extermination! Although that's happening on its own...along with a lot of other exterminations...and really, I don't think we're going to like the consequences so much.

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    2. I'm sure the eradication of bats would result in other species going extinct as well. Such as coronaviruses. I could live with that.

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    3. I always, always enjoy your POV.

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  3. Holy shit, I thought I was the only person who found these kind of emergencies a cheap thrill. Also, I feel like I wanna get this dumb thing and get it over with. Then again, I am rapidly approaching 60, so....

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    1. I've noticed that the rapidity of approaching significant birhdays increases with the number of birthdays.

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    1. Seriously, don't feel too bad about it.

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  5. As I commented elsewhere, "IMHO, the world will definitely be a different (perhaps better?) place when those who survive come out of the tunnel that is the COVID-19 experience. I think it may be better because the world's inhabitants will have had a common experience. Some of the reason that we have trouble relating with one another across borders is that we don't have enough "in common". Sadly, this deadly event will provide commonality."

    You do raise an interesting question, Murr: Will we vaccinate all of the bats when we get a vaccine approved for people?

    At the rate COVID-19 is mutating, I'm guessing that it will become another seasonal flu; but, I don't expect to live to see it. We old, old had our cheap thrills with measles, mumps, scarlet fever, whooping cough, etc, back in the 1930s and 1940s.
    Cop Car

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    1. Did I raise a question about bat vaccination???

      I was just reminiscing about the joys of measles, mumps, and chicken pox the other day. Polio took down my sister. I loves me some vaccinations.

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  6. Unmitigated! You changed your picture!

    I had been assuming a nuclear strike and the resultant WW would bring us to this point. Or a space alien invasion. I guess I'm too (relatively) young to have considered that a systemic alien would bring us to a halt.

    What has become clear(er) is what a spoiled people we have become. Why is it inconceivable to so many that something other than paper can be used to clean ourselves? What on earth is wrong with reusable, washable soft cloths? Cut-up old T-shirts make wonderful cleaning rags.

    This is the first I've heard of a bat connection. I do hope humans' initial knee-jerk reaction doesn't wipe out that species as well. We need them.

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    1. My husband has always said that we will end with a whimper and not a bang, and -- YOU DIDN'T HEAR THIS FROM ME, M'KAY? -- he may be right.

      And spoiled though we may be, even we have decided on a fall-back method if we can no longer get toilet paper. We have a LOT of rags. Old t-shirts, old towels, all cut up into, well, rag-sized portions. I mean, this is what people did before disposable diapers, right? They laundered shit-rags. And, from what I hear, adult shit is not as bad as baby shit, from a laundry standpoint. But I will need a lot more alcohol in me to get over doing laundry then.

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    2. Alcohol is a crucial part of the preparedness for sure.

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    3. According to my local newspaper, here in South Australia some idiots have been using alternatives to toilet paper, like paper towels, paper napkins, pieces of cloth. AND FLUSHING THEM!! The sewers are beginning to back up.....

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  7. Looks like our own mortality is being noticed again. Being ever so slightly older than you and being a male I may be closer to the end, but I don't think it's anytime soon. Then again, I am not worried about it. I used to worry more when I was younger, but it didn't improve anything so I stopped.

    "They're as successful as an internet rumor. Or xenophobia, which spreads rapidly but can't exist for long outside Fox News."
    Damn, Murr! You can still turn a thought into a great bunch of words!

    P.S. As a single guy I barely use a roll of toilet paper in a month so I am not worried about that, but why are people buying so much? Diarrhea isn't associated with Covid-19, so why would you need so much more than usual?

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    1. In case some Trumpanzee friends come to visit, maybe? Since this started, they've been even more full of shit than usual.

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    2. Jono, I always look forward to reading your comments! I've always been a worrier, and I worry even more now, but I love this line from the movie Bridge of Spies:

      Tom Hanks (defense attorney): Aren't you worried?

      Mark Rylance (spy for Russia) Would that help?

      I wish I could have that attitude... but I don't.

      I was watching Bill Maher interview David Ropeik, author of the book How Risky Is It, Really?, and he said that the reason people hoard these strange things in these situations is that they feel a loss of control, and this makes them FEEL more in control of the situation. (Yeah, we all know that control is an illusion, but still we hold onto our illusions.)

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    3. It's an odd thing for me. I do worry about things sometimes but rarely for long. There is something about NOT having control that I find liberating. I don't know if this attitude is innate or can be learned. As far as TP goes--well my, my, our decision to put in a bidet might work out very well for us!

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    4. My husband taught me the Fighter Pilot attitude toward worry: Why die all tensed up?

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    5. I like that. I prefer a shovel to the back of the head.

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  8. Up until yesterday, I had my feet firmly planted on what's left of the earth and had accepted that this was here and it's multiplying at an exponential rate so high that when we finally get up to speed with testing, the numbers are going to blow the minds of the collective. I thought I was mentally prepared for all of it. Turns out I'm not.

    I went to my cardiologist's office yesterday morning. She practices within a hospital system that serves a pretty large area. They didn't have a single safety protocol in place for patients. What the had put into place for staff was pitiful. Knowing the medical community doesn't have what it needs to do the work that needs doing is one thing. Seeing the level of denial on display because of what wasn't there, was pretty damn terrifying.

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    1. Holy cow. I don't know what to say. I woulda thought...

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    2. Tell me you and Dave will cancel all non-essential medical visits until this thing settles down.

      Based on what I saw in that setting, I believe medical offices & hospitals in some regions are going to be ground zero for the spread of this virus.

      She wanted to order some very specialized testing that needs insurance pre-auth. I asked her to delay sending in orders because by the time I get scheduled for an appointment, what I need done is going to be pretty low on the priority list. She's ordering them now.

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    3. We are very minor consumers of health care. Even though we have great insurance. Very lucky.

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  9. I too have been fascinated by how easily Covid 19 crosses borders. All borders.
    Watching and waiting.

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  10. Pollution levels have gone down, along with all the other benefits you mentioned!

    I'm worried for myself and numerous family members who are at higher risk. And I'm probably spending too much time reading about it, trying to absorb as much knowledge as I can because I operate better with knowledge. Until the knowledge becomes overwhelming and I get actual butterflies.

    Another great essay, Murr. May you and Dave be safe.

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  11. P. S. I love Pootie's sweater. Did you make? I think as a diversionary tactic I should choose one of my stuffed animals and start making clothing for it.

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    1. Oh hell no. Did you ever see my piece about making a pussy hat for, like, two MONTHS?

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    2. Well, yes, but I thought that might be just modesty on your part :)

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  12. I want to dig up my dead parents and ask them if this is what living through WWII was like -- the sacrifices for the common good, the attitude that we can improvise or do without, the "state of heightened awareness of each other's basic humanity"....Oh wait, back then they had systems in place to assure that most people wouldn't hoard toilet paper -- like gas and food ration books, and clever sayings to bark at non-compliant people, things like "loose lips sink ships". My secret fear is that we will turn out to be too many spoiled self-centered brats -- people that never went on a boy scout campout and realized that there was value in digging the latrine for 20 other guys, because they were taking care of other essentials like pitching the tent or gathering firewood. BTW, your writing is the best!

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    1. You won't have to dig them up; obviously the "Zombie Apocalypse" is upon us, so you can ask them when they rise up and go after you. However, all they will say is probably "Argghhh...." and make biting motions.

      As for sacrifices, I remember when 9/11 happened and Bush told us to go shopping. Yeah... what a sacrifice.

      Murr, I know I'm horning in a lot here, but I find this thread fascinating, and, let's face it, we all have a lot more time on our hands...

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    2. We're doing exactly what Murr hopes--taking off with the kernels she's planted!

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    3. I’ve never been so grateful to have been raised by family members whose birthdays dated back to 1890. They were Southerners, and therefore, storytellers. I’ve got first person stories in my memory bank that cover everything from WWI and the Great Influenza, through the Crash, the Depression...all of the last century full of lessons. They were rich in experience, the family, and generous with it. I’m drawing on it all now.

      But I do wish I hadn’t recycled that hefty parts catalogue with the tissue thin pages that turned up unsolicited in the mailbox two weeks ago.

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    4. I do appreciate all these comments. Ed: Mom was born in 1913 and Dad in 1908. But that generation didn't talk much about their troubles. NOW I have all these questions. Nance, what a treasury! Anyway, the only thing I know about Mom and WWII is her habit of stockpiling toilet paper. It was floor to ceiling in the linen closet. Ahead of her time.

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    5. Yes, we had rationing during WWII; but, I don't know if TP was rationed. After all, we didn't start using TP until we moved to town, near the end of the war. We used catalog pages in our outhouse.
      Cop Car

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    6. BTW: The TP shortage that I remember was in the mid 1960s - about the time we moved to Seattle (late 1965). and Gasoline wars gave us 19 cent gasoline.
      Cop Car

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    7. Mom was certainly an outhouse Sears Catalog gal (in the North Dakota winters!) and I can only assume that at some point, if TP was not rationed per se, it was unavailable. Because there was no talking her out of that TP closet.

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  13. Am I the only one thinking that this is Mother Nature's dose of Karma? You know, "a woman scorned" thing?
    "You want to abuse this beautiful planet, kill my unique animals, exploit all the gifts I've given you? Well...try this on for size..."

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  14. Like you, I'm not overly concerned, I'm basically healthy apart from asthma, so I'm being careful but not panicking. Certainly not filling my home with rolls of loo paper either.
    Pootie looks cute, is that a new sweater he's wearing?

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  15. Oh, that schmatta? He's had that forever.

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  16. "Deep State, a.k.a. the remaining still-functional bureaucrats whose salaries I am happy to pay with my tax money." OMG yes! Binge buying is crazy. I'm wondering why it's TP and sanitizer when really, it should be wine and chocolate. I wrote a song about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRjHwnMy8kM

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    1. There was a dreadful editorial cartoon in the paper yesterday. Two people with an empty cart in a supermarket with empty shelves, and one says to the other, "This is a preview of socialism." Fie! Hate those propagandizing bastards!

      I'm going to put your song in a clickable link so everyone can enjoy it more easily! Thanks Jamie!

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  17. Fun song! Had to laugh at "ouch!"

    Your profile name always reminds me of a little boy I used to babysit. He LOVED the Name Game song (Jack, Jack, bo-Back). One day he and his dad picked me up from the airport, and as we walked through the parking lot Jack started pointing at things for me to sing the song about. Imagine the horror on dad's face when Jack pointed to a truck....

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    1. Oh that was high comedy in eighth grade, singing to Chuck.

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  18. you boomers are shutting down the entire economy because you're afraid of a flu. Seriously, can you boomers kill yourselves? You are the most selfish generation to ever exist. You don't give a shit about climate change, why should we young people give a shit if you get sick and die of some virus? I HOPE the virus gets much stronger and kills you all.

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    1. Oh, me too, Anonymous. Say "hi" to your whole A. family for us! In troubled times we need courageous people to stand up and speak truth to power! PS. Dad and I had a talk, and we're going to need that space in the basement. Also, we're spending your inheritance.

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    2. Gee. There must be a whole generation of boomers out there who have escaped my acquaintance. Fortunately, the boomers of my acquaintance have been very good at taking care of themselves - and - of others. They have treated this old woman really well - as is the case of the succeeding generations.

      I'm sorry that others have evidently not shared my pleasant experience.
      Cop Car
      Silent Generation

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  19. Your Writing is so profound and yet your Dark Humor had me laughing all the way, keep it coming, we NEED it more than TP, which is in very short supply. I never used to fret over how much TP I had around, now I find myself taking Inventory of it and telling the Fam to ration what they wipe their Arse with since if we run out... living in a Desert, it's not as if the indigenous plants are appropriate Arse Wipers since most have thorns and barbs and other painful shit all over them!

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    1. Truly, I haven't felt more honored than when you said my humor was needed more than TP. I'm getting my gravestone carved as we speak! Thanks!

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