And even now, there are moments that seem pleasant, hopeful, when I am excited to complete something, to start some new thing. The world feels familiar. Comfortable. Briefly ordinary.
But like waking from one dream into another, it washes over me that this is not the world I live in now. I might never live in that once-upon-a-time again. No one will.
BC: Before COVID AD: After Dystopia
We are protected here in rural Floyd County to some degree by our long-standing propensity to shelter in place. Houses are, for the most part, at some distance apart. A person can go days without seeing anybody but the mailman go by at noon.
And when we gather, it is rarely in groups of more than 200–other than the high school gym, the highest capacity in Floyd County for holding a group.
Even the county seat is low-density by big-city standards. The town of Floyd holds some 450 people on almost 300 acres, twenty miles from the nearest interstate. Isolated. Remote. Backwaters. And yet…
We are not free of risk in the current crisis. All it will take is Patient Zero, who visited a Virginia Tech world traveler or just returned from a conference in California. That unknowingly infected person sheds virus at the grocery store. Patient Two carries it to church the next day.
We need not be needlessly paranoid. Many of us might not need change our day-to-day at-home lifestyle much at all for a while. I guess not knowing how long that while might last makes me anxious. When will we see our friends again? And my mom in assisted living: we may never meet again in this life. It’s possible.
Patient Three is my age. Healthy. Active. I probably know them. They get tested (this is in June when tests are finally available, and that is when Patients One and Two are deduced, well after the fact.) They have COVID19, are quarantined at home at first, then admitted to Lewis Gale Montgomery–a crow mile from mom; near the center of a major university of tens of thousands of students and faculty and facility workers.
Those early admits are among the more fortunate who require hospital space, equipment and professional care. If you have to be hospitalized, be in the first wave before the upturn in the hockey stick of logarithmic increase in full-blown cases.
And so in my ordinary, solitary, bucolic retired life, I get up in the morning and make the coffee. I spread out the things I want to explore, think, or write about. I make and prioritize my list of tasks by the usual categories. I am pulled into a thread about some part of the world where a new reptile has been discovered. I am momentarily absorbed into that realm of life, that culture, those people and creatures in far-away villages in Indonesia. Fascinating.
And then it invades my reverie and fragile focus: where ever that place is in the world, their lives are no longer ordinary, casual or in their control. The shadow of pandemic darkens all their lives, too. And they will never be the same on the other side.
It will come –The Other Side. What will it be like? How will it be different from the world, BC? It could be better. The world system is having a Dope Slap event; a come-to-Jesus moment. We can’t go on the way we were going, BC.
We can’t treat the planet and each other that way, so very very many of us, so very very acquisitive and indifferent and selfish. We can’t put people in power who don’t respect people and planet more than profit. We can’t defy science, thinking humans are somehow less animal flesh than bats or mosquitos.
In my hopeful moments of temporary oblivion, I know there will be a few changes that put band-aids on severed limbs of civilization. But mostly when the shareholders are happy again, human enterprise will pick up just where it left off, save for the millions who died, and the hundreds of thousands of businesses that went extinct, AD, never to rise again.
And so these fleeting moments of blissful ignorance, of flow, of the joy in the moments of immutable beauty of earth and sky just out my door–that will be where I try to live. As much as possible. I will seek solace in the knowing we have never been eternal in this life. We live in a world of material consequences. Things fall apart. But life in this body is a vapor. And there is eternity built into us.
And I will think on these things.