A couple months ago, I was walking along at night. The wind blew cold and broken clouds obscured the Moon. Early-season frogs peeped sporadically, wishing it was warmer.
It occurred to me then, walking through dark trees, what a privilege it was to be unafraid. Humans haven’t always been so secure, and in many parts of the world they still aren’t, but by and large, through sheer numbers and alteration of the landscape, we’ve pushed back the creatures that threaten us, so that for most, our biggest fear is other people. If I were almost any other animal, in this environment, I’d be on edge, jumping at shadows, and worried about what lurked behind every tree. Being human, I could just enjoy the walk. A luxury.
(Again, lions, tigers and bears -and even reticulated pythons – notwithstanding.)
That was several months ago, however. Back when I really didn’t have a care in the world, and time outside, unafraid, was a regular occurrence.
Little did I know we’d soon be operating in a world where your neighbor might, unwittingly, kill you. Statistically, I realize this is a bit of an exaggeration – but when faced with a microscopic predator that can hide in plain sight, not causing any discomfort to its host, and spreading as easily as the SARS-CoV-2 virus does… the only safe behavior, for now, is to treat every person as if they’re a zombie, and every surface as if it’s covered with poison.
Suddenly, we’re vulnerable. The healthiest of us are spending all our energy figuring out how to continue working while eliminating almost all other activities (which, after almost four weeks of semi-isolation, is starting to take a mental toll). For others, the COVID-19 disease caused by this virus really is potentially deadly.
It’s all a bit of a reminder to enjoy the little things, and to seek out those opportunities to enjoy life, no matter how trivial they may be. It’s also abundantly clear that despite our relative comfort as the dominant animal on the planet, our existence is still very fragile.
I’m very curious about what societal changes we’ll see after COVID. Parts of Asia can divide behavior into Pre-SARS, Post-SARS – I expect the West will see COVID the same way. We’ll work differently, interact differently. And HOPEFULLY, we’ll behave a little differently and not be so cavalier about dismissing early-warning signs that are substantiated by data.
There’s a perfect corollary to this entire event, in the effects of climate change. We’ve known for decades that it’s happening, and every bit of data we collect not only substantiates, but largely reinforces the predictions that we’re on a dangerous course. But, much as we’ve tried (and failed) to wish away a viral pandemic, we’ve ignored the evidence and dismissed science because of political expediency or just selfish laziness.
Will the impact of COVID – so predictable and yet not planned-for – make us pause and seriously consider the next set of things that might kill us? Or will we continue to walk through the night, oblivious and unafraid, and be surprised by the inevitable attack?
Get Out There