It’s 2003 and I’m scheduled to go on a trip with a friend. We’re to visit China and Russia and everything in between.
But a new virus has been identified that causes a disease called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and it is killing people in China. And elsewhere. And the World Health Organization is requesting that people cancel or postpone all non-essential travel.
I do. It nearly costs me one of my dearest friends.
I never make it to China. Or Russia.
— § —
And here we are. It’s 2020 and I’m worried. I’m worried because everywhere I’ve looked for half a decade or more now, I’ve seen a kind of worrying complacency and lazy decadence that—in the end—always comes to no good.
We’re so far down the rabbit hole that we’ve spent years now yelling at each other about the words that we use, doing elective surgeries to bodies in a manic conflation of cosmetics and biological necessity that is only possible in places where everything is so inexpensive that cosmetics and surgery can easily be mistaken for one another because each is as inexpensive as one another.
Where nothing has costs, everything seems serious—and then the figure of death rolls in, scythe in hand, and laughs at everyone while they wail like brats about just how unfair it all is.
— § —
I regret that I have not yet completed (nor even taken real steps to complete) the conversion that has been a clear matter of destiny for me now for years.
I regret that I have not done so many things that I believe I ought to have done, that I have invariably put off until “tomorrow.”
I have bad premonitions about this one.
Cancelling trips will not be enough, I think, for any of us.
I watch the news about “elections” and it becomes clear just how stupid all of this is. Just how stupid all of us are.
— § —
There is a tendency amongst the young—I had it in spades when I was young—to want to cry out to the elders, “What are you doing? Don’t you know that life is short? That it’s precious? How can we live like this? How can you go to work every day and do nothing in particular, and continue to vote for and participate in a system in which these people hunger their entire lives and those people have more money than they can spend and no one—neither group—is contributing whatever it is that they’re best able to contribute to human memory?!”
The elders of course take pains to explain that this is the sort of thing that everyone comes to understand in time, and they’re right in a way—in time, you do come to understand it, which is to say that you begin to do the same things that they did because there appears to be no practical alternative.
Today, you have to eat. Tomorrow you’ll worry about tomorrow.
But there are moments in a person’s life, and maybe—just maybe—moments for an entire world at which it becomes clear that at least in some way or other, the young people are right. So many tiny specs on a pale blue dot and yet we have Shakespeare and Plato and calculus and physics. These are the things that matter.
All of that other stuff—all of that other stuff doesn’t matter.
— § —
I’d like to think that if we end up with 50 or 100 million dead, we’ll wake up this time and do something different with ourselves, stop yelling about the safe spaces and the idiots and those other people who are to blame for the terrible things that aren’t, after all, so terrible—like being called a name here and there.
If only microbes were so facile as to fall for name-calling, we could do away with them for good.
But they’re the work of nature, and nature is not patient. God is not patient. It’s very possibly the greatest irony of fallen man—we, we mortals on the pale blue dot, we have infinite patience. Patience until we fade away or are suddenly snuffed out.
And we all throw up our hands and have more patience.
God and nature—not so much. What they have is being, that which is. Being that is not nearly as ephemeral as ours is.
We wear the costumes of control and dance around in them like so many fools.
— § —
All those years ago. 2003. Now it’s nearly twenty years later and everything old is new again.
Except me, that is. Except all of us who were here then, and ought to have known better, but instead have fallen for idols like “activism” and “innovation” and so on.
Where are our novels, our treatises, our memories, our legacies?
We’d better get to writing them. For all of us, come COVID-19 or some other cause, time is running out, because time is always running out.
And the control emphatically does not belong to us, however highly we may regard ourselves.