Who knows how many more days we have on our islands? We are moving forward with hesitant steps towards opening parts of the community. I am optimistically cautious about this forward progress. I think it is precipitous, but I also think that with common sense and a bit of luck it may work. The problem lies in the common sense part.
More and more as I read the news or listen to the responses of other people, some positive many negative, I feel abstracted from the outside world. I am lost in thought, trying to use second (or third sight, ala Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching) to understand the situation, the context and my own responses to them. My abstraction is a cocooning defense. My third sight is parsing whether it is a cowardly one or a position of strength.
There is little or nothing that we as a population can do about the pandemic beyond getting out of the way and letting separation, natural healing and the excellent work of medical caregivers and scientists lead us to a place of stability (if not yet cure). Doing nothing is hard. It is in all our natures to act, whether the action involves running towards or away from the fray. When the fray is invisible and encircling, it is unclear where to run, but the movement gene is strong in humans.
We pride ourselves on our advancement as a species. Look, we have conquered darkness! Look, we have mastered distance! Look, nature bows before us! But nature never really was bowed – she was plotting. There is nothing malevolent about the COVID virus. It has no personality. It is the being that it is. But its ubiquity and its tenacity has given a lie to so much of our perceived superiority. Doing nothing seems to be capitulation.
But it is expressly our ability to do nothing when every instinct is telling us to run, to fight or to lash out that is the best quality of humanity. Our rational thought allows us to recognize those instincts and when necessary to overpower them. Cowering together may be our atavistic response to global uncertainty, but staying separate is a rational, appropriate and proven response. It is not a sign of capitulation but evidence of strength.
We all need some abstraction, to understand not only our best course of action (or inaction) but to recognize why that course is so difficult. Hopefully the abstract state will give us the context and the understanding to continue to do the right things.
[This Post was adapted from a essay originally published on Facebook the day listed above]