Within less than a week, my synagogue progressed from “We’ll be slicing the challah instead of everyone tearing off chunks” to “We’re closing the building, except for the rabbi and cantor who will lead services online.”
In my guise as editor of textbooks and related products, I have developed lessons about the dangers of social media and other internet inventions, and how they are no substitute for actual socializing. All of a sudden, the internet is everyone’s only venue for actual socializing.
The &*!%$ coronavirus isn’t satisfied with taking over the physical world, it has to take over the virtual world, too. Every news feed, email message, and website (including mine!) feels like a domino in the same epidemic of information, copying or restating the same miserable news and depressing advice with surprisingly few alterations/mutations. This essay, or at least these introductory paragraphs, is my attempt at a personal and creative spin on the situation, but I feel like I’m shouting pointlessly into a hurricane. No matter, I’m publishing it regardless!!! Take that, you stupid virus!
Here we are, towering multicellular organisms of sturdy bones and opposable thumbs, not to mention the most sophisticated cerebral cortices that evolution has ever coughed up from the swamp. Over the past few millennia, we humans have managed to dream up ideas and manufacture gizmos of ever-increasing complexity, a march of progress that ultimately has led to the Ford Mustang, Kraft macaroni and cheese, the infield fly rule, the fabulous Fountainebleau Hotel of Miami Beach, sugary breakfast cereals and My Little Pony, and the peppy yet sultry musical stylings of Sheryl Crow, who wants to soak up the sun in one number and drive like Steve McQueen in the next. You’d think our highly-evolved bodies and expansive society would have no trouble—no trouble at all—with a tiny strand of DNA surrounded by a spherical protein capsid, some bit of bother from the realm of bats and pangolins. You’d think we could tell our cells, “Hey, guys, you see that capsid-thingy that looks like a miniature Koosh ball? Keep it outside because it’s really dangerous. Thanks a lot! Here, have some more glucose and caffeine while the lungs load up on oxygen.”
But nooooooo, as cued by the late John Belushi. Turns out our cells are mindless pre-programmed slave-bots in service of the Greater Scheme of Things. While a sophisticated and elaborate immune system does protect us from dingbat invaders like the Coronavirus, the system often acts just a little too slowly to shut down the process and prevent all the coughing, wheezing, and (in some cases) dying that may ensue.
Oh, John Belushi, why did you have to leave us so prematurely, all those years ago? The answer to that question might be easy to construct, but I am going to leave it rhetorical all the same.
I have attained the age where I need three-digit numbers to count the departed souls who matter to me, yet I still have no desire to join them. For openers, among the alive and hearty are my wife and two sons (ages 14 and 2), and neither boy is quite ready to inherit the future.
The teenager is handling the epidemic just fine, retreating into his headphones and YouTube comedy and video games, as well as conversations over the telephone. The toddler is living pretty much the same life as before. If he feels the absence of music class or the mothers’ group or the noodles from the Chinese restaurant, he certainly is not making a fuss about it.
My guess is that both boys, the toddler especially, will adapt without much effort into whatever post-Corona world awaits us. The transition might be harder for us adults, because transitions usually are.
I would like to encourage all of you to support the Democratic nominee in the coming election. All of the experts say that we shall be getting good ol’ Joe Biden, with whom I share initials and at least a few tenets of political philosophy, but if by some unexpected twist of events (and when does the unexpected ever happen?!?) the nominee is Bernie or someone else, I’ll support that person as well. Let’s do this, people! Let’s make human civilization at least a little saner and more reasonable and more just. C’mon, please? Just this once?
The attic and my office closet hold relics from my earlier life. I’ve got the old baseball cards, airline timetables and other memorabilia, novels imagined in the twentieth century and first couple decades of the twenty-first, lots of family photographs, and some used lift tickets and old trail maps from Vail, Big Sky, and other fine ski resorts. What on Earth is going to happen to all this stuff? I know the answer to that question, but would rather not think about it.