Monday March 23
As we look down the mouth of the cannon that is the coronavirus, we are reminded, however painful, of a few intangibles.
Not that we want to be reminded, as we stare frantically at the CVS shelf that once held disinfectant wipes and now holds only space. Or as we scroll the Internet and stop for a moment to consider paying $200 for an anti-viral mask, even though medical professionals are telling us to stop hoarding supplies they desperately need. Or as we consider whether that wedding in Florida, a blue-spring-sky paradise now declared a literal state of emergency, is worth flying to. In October.
Life is and has never been under our control. We tell friends that our children tell us everything about their lives, an absurd assumption that transcends generations. We buy material goods: houses, cars, boats, clothing, more houses, and objects with which to fill them that include leather couches, Scalamandre-covered chairs, Wolf stoves and Sub Zero refrigerators, and comfort one another that the ability to make costly purchases assures power. We wear gloves and masks to the grocery store and the dry cleaner and believe such paltry precautions will ward off the evils of marauding droplets.
So that’s one intangible worth contemplating: that COVID-19, at one point or sooner, will force us to consider what actually lies within our power.
Oddly enough, we know we’ve been living in a world beset by terrorists for years, in the form of other viruses such as the flu, but most important, in the virulent habitat of the mosquito. Mosquitoes, which have to deal with about 110 trillion of their relatives throughout the world – and you think you have family issues – infect us with malaria, yellow fever, the Zika virus, worms, and so much more. That’s all according to “The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator,” by Timothy Winegard. But what’s most interesting is that we seem to have come to terms with our notorious neighbor, risking our lives regularly for picnics, outdoor concerts, and that death-defying business of gardening.
Add to that risk the reality that in our honorable state, we are favored to reside in Lyme Disease Central, a busy waystation for ticks that ruin many lives, young and old alike.
This all reminds me of a line in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first film in the trilogy, when Bilbo Baggins says to his kin, young Frodo Baggins, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.”
And so it is, and has always been.
Wash hands to two strains of “Happy Birthday.” Bump elbows instead of shaking hands. Sneeze into tissues or the crook of your arm. Remember that fear is what we fear. Shelter in place – stay home. Because we can’t do anything right now about this virus, except to shake our fists at it, act intelligently, lovingly, and with great care, and, God willing, go on living.