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Thursday, November 26, 2020

"Happy" Thanksgiving 2020

We're hunkered down at our house, grateful to simply be alive, sheltered, and thus far Covid-free. As frustrated by this again-spiking pandemic as anyone.

Stay safe and well.
I am deep into "Apollo's Arrow." Bracing. Illuminating. Highly recommended. Another great place within which to hide a $100 bill from Donald Trump.
…There is something about a threat that reoccurs at the dim reaches of living memory, every fifty or one hundred years, that makes our species seem particularly small. When such a threat reappears, human suffering is combined with the sad realization that we should have seen it coming. Epidemics generally take advantage of the deepest and most highly evolved aspects of our humanity. We evolved to live in groups, to have friends, to touch and hug each other, and to bury and mourn one another. If we lived like hermits, we would not be victims of contagious disease. But the germs that kill us during times of plague often spread precisely because of who we are. And so for centuries, our response in a time of plague has been to rediscover the necessity of surrendering these aspects of our nature for a while.

We forget the lessons of past pandemics for different reasons. In some cases, they are simply too far back in our collective memory or too obscured by other events. Those plagues have become objects of inquiry to small groups of academic historians or scientists or they are subjects of oral traditions or myths. During Passover in early April 2020, several of my Jewish friends observed that biblical plagues had always been abstract for them, but now they felt more real; the point of the story at the seder was more manifest. In other cases, the reasons for forgetting are more prosaic, more epidemiological, more related to numbers: the particular pandemic disease was not fatal enough (2009 H1N1 influenza), or it did not afflict enough people because it was not infectious enough (MERS), or it burned out too fast (SARS-1), or it afflicted a confined subgroup of the human population (Ebola), or it was brought low by a vaccine (measles and polio), or by treatment (HIV), or by eradication (smallpox), allowing most people to simply push the disease out of their minds.

While the way we have come to live in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic might feel alien and unnatural, it is actually neither of those things. Plagues are a feature of the human experience. What happened in 2020 was not new to our species. It was just new to us.

Christakis, Nicholas A.. Apollo's Arrow (pp. 83-84). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.
FALL 2020

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