Why We Need to Resume Life

A photo of empty tables and chairs in a restaurant setting. Used under Creative Commons.

I find it funny when I think about coming back from a relaxing holiday vacation. Funny in a not-so-funny way. I had such fantastic plans for 2020. Then, my first day back into the new year, I discovered that the company for which I work was acquired. I’m still trying to navigate the results of that. Then we discovered the downfall of only owning one vehicle when that vehicle was involved in an accident and had a transmission failure, back to back. I spent a good deal of the end of January and early February dealing with the logistics of that while still dealing with the fallout from the acquisition. Things were beginning to settle, though, as we left on a trip to assist my parents during a scheduled surgery. And then, just as I was looking forward to returning to our normal life in mid-March….well, you know the rest. One little virus, and the world broke.

2020, momentous as it begins a new decade, has stopped being the sort of year in which you achieve anything, and is becoming the sort of year that you just survive.

Now, as life begins to slowly re-open, I’m looking forward to returning to some sense of normal, even while forgetting that I’ve lived this fully remote life before. I’m seeing all sorts of positive things come from the extra time that I now have in my week with no commute, while still groaning about my first world problems…delayed haircuts, complications in getting coffee. There’s a cognitive dissonance here, but it arises from a restlessness, and a sadness as I watch others’ lives and livelihoods implode around me.

I suppose that this post might break with my rule against writing about politics, but, hey…extraordinary times, and all that. The propaganda machine is in high gear. I’m absolutely exhausted from constantly hearing some variation on the theme of “stay home, stay safe.” I’m particularly frustrated with how this is equated with “staying inside,” allowing popular opinion and convenient science to outweigh common sense in favor of corporate-driven interests. Despite the fact that fresh air and sunlight have been proven by, you guessed it, science, to combat illnesses such as this pandemic, such things are pushed aside with claims of lack of data. After all, pharmaceuticals can’t make money from fresh air and sunshine. It’s interesting how objective science, normally deified, becomes disposable when you don’t agree with its conclusions.

For the record, just in case you hadn’t guessed, I think Sweden has it right.

My issue is this at its simplest: we’re not safe. We can’t be safe. There is simply no such state, nor has there ever been. Grasping for this is nothing more than selfishness…”everyone do this extreme thing so that I won’t have a bad outcome.” At the end of the day, all of our steps to mitigate this pandemic are security theatre, just like airports after the attacks of 9/11. The nonsense at airports, though, has stayed with us, has been woven into our culture as the subject of jokes and as a general expectation. And that’s what scares me about this, because we can’t live six feet apart forever. As a people, we will die. We will go insane.

We already are.

The predictions and half-baked data modeling only serve to solidify this expectation. The emotional and psychological damage that we’re doing to each other is already incalculable. Humans die without contact, without touch.

So, when I see photos of people crowding into parks in beautiful weather, I don’t gasp and have the rage response that the rest of Twitter does. I see hope. Hope that we are willing to just push through this, hope that many see that life is going to go on, regardless, and that it’s better to be with each other as it does. I don’t want to waste week after week – time that we will never get back – cowering at home in fear, clinging to such an illusory concept as safety. A life arrested isn’t life. Its existence, at best, and at worst a prolonged death, a slow burn. It’s a death of the spirit, and that stands to be the larger casualty of this pandemic.

Just like the other casualties, though, we can minimize it, if we decide that we want to do so. But we have to do so by living. We can’t accept anything less.

Image attribution: Kevin Spencer under Creative Commons.

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