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Weary Pilgrim – Coronavirus Vol. IV

In my teen years I went through a brief sci-fi period, devouring novels by the likes of Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov. This week I was suddenly struck by a remembrance of a book by Asimov called the “Naked Sun.” In this book an investigator by the name of Elijah Baley travels to a planet called Solaria to look into a murder. This planet is a carefully controlled society, wherein people all communicate by holograms, those three dimensional projections that were all the rage in the 70′s but never actually caught on in our real world.

In the fictional world of Solaria, however, holograms are so vivid, the population vastly prefer them to any real time visit by actual human beings. In fact, many people are so terrified by the physical presence of another human, the investigator uses this to his advantage – he barges into people’s homes and refuses to leave until they tell him what he wants to know. Which, time after time, they do.

Imagine this: a world where we communicate digitally rather than in person. Where this sort of second-hand socialization becomes our preference. Where actual physical confrontation or presence is no longer the norm.

My better half, D., mused aloud the other day that we may be getting used to this smaller world. We certainly don’t appear to be suffering. Admittedly we are in the bracket of older folks who don’t have to worry about our jobs anymore or raising our children. But there are tens of millions of folks just like us, and the question remains: what now, and what do we really want?

We surely took that BC (Before Corona) life for granted. There seems to be a consensus that, whatever life will be like in six months or a year from now, it will never actually be like what it was before. I’m getting used to having things delivered. My daily routine has dumbed down to walks, lunch, playing music and reading, dinner, watching TV, and off to bed. I keep complaining about the lack of golf, but I’m pretty sure we will be allowed to resume golf in a month or two, and then I can go back to complaining about my golf game.

I miss going to the theater, but I’m afraid that a whole lot of people are never going back to the theaters when they reopen. We have surely learned to embrace Netflix, and now that we know how to navigate our streaming TV services, why go back to that pesky routine where we actually have to leave our houses to see a movie?

It will be a relief to shop without masks someday, but I betcha we will be sending out for a lot more food from now on (meaning AC – After Corona) than we did BC.

Schools will be the biggest concern, even more than the workplace. I have taught online, and it’s just not fun. There is something about learning that benefits from the human vibrations that are sent and received by teachers and students.

Some Workplace activities can suffer from the lack of social interaction – creativity, humor, and the like starve in solitary confinement. It’s fascinating watching Stephen Colbert broadcast from his study with only his family for an audience – he has improved, but I look forward to the grand reopening of the Ed Sullivan theater.

Other changes: gun sales are up. I can’t quite figure this one out. Once upon a time the automatic reaction to a widespread calamity was the stock market would retreat like a French army. Now we just want to armor up. Can you shoot a depression? Can you shoot a virus? Fortunately, there has been a drop in mass shootings. There has also been a drop in automobile fatalities. Heart attack statistics are down. In fact, lesser calamities are, um ... lesser in number.

You know what’s really disappointing? When you are sure you have had the virus, and you get tested, and you are not positive. It happened to a friend of mine. It’s like when you eat a high calorie meal that you just don’t like. If you’re going to do something bad, it ought to have a point. There should be some benefit to everything. Nothing is worse than wasting a good virus.

Here’s the bummer – it’s by no means clear that testing positive for antibodies will confer immunity on anyone. Add to this the mounting suspicion that the various tests for anti-bodies are flawed, yielding both false positives and false negatives. That’s a lot of ‘False’.

Remember Alexander ‘I’m in Charge Here’ Haig? A former Secretary of State for Reagan, he became famous for many things, including his Down the Rabbit Hole matrix of problem-solving terms: ‘known knowns’, ‘known unknowns’, and the like. Well, he had a point – because we are in the classic phase of ‘unknown-unknowns’ ... meaning We Don’t Know What It Is That We Don’t Know.

It’s like walking into a dark room looking for the light switch, and you don’t know if the bulb works ... and you’re blind.

The word ‘Data’ has never promised so much. Nor been so elusive.

Here’s the good news – you are not alone. I’m really proud of my town, my friends, and my local government. Folks in the street are friendly and smart. It’s our job to remain socially distant – it’s not our job to be defensive, mean, or panicked.

We truly don’t know what the future holds – But we can have faith in our town, our friends, our governor, and ourselves.


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