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The Human Plague
what if we are the plague?
“But what does it mean, the plague? It's life, that's all.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague
What if this were true? What if this plague is indeed our life? What if this covid19 plague is the biological viral mirror of the sick, bloated, atherosclerotic, anemic, and poisonous existence humanity has carved out for itself? Exponential, viral, virulent, merciless, unwavering—covid19 is our microbial reflection. When I look back at the past week, the pace of change astounds me. The structure of life as I know it—the systems that have built themselves up since my childhood—have begun to weaken. For several days I have met empty shelves at the stores.
My partner is getting ready to shut down his place of work, a community non profit. We don’t know if the non profit will survive the closure. I’ve read tweets and social media posts from people just like us, taking a massive hit in the income stream’s jugular. Some people will lose their business, their livelihoods. Some people have to choose between a job and their health or the health of their partners and families. Some people have nowhere to socially distance or isolate to because they are homeless. Some couples will be separated by the lockdown of care facilities. Can you imagine being married to someone for 50 years and being at the end of your lives and facing this kind of separation? Yet this is where and what we live right now. Some of these people will die, and be separated even in that death. Rituals will be suspended because of the plague.
I have watched people die. Do you know that when a person dies, the corpse doesn’t really look like the person did when they were alive? Maybe the body does weigh 21 grams less after the soul leaves to cross the veil into the afterlife. I have shrouded corpses. I have undressed them, washed them, dressed them. It felt like a strange kind of delicate physical prayer, tending to the recently deceased—folding them delicately like flower petals, readying them for their final journey, and knowing a soul you just spoke to yesterday or the day before lived in this house of mud and water, when you tend it for the very last time. As you prepare the body, you think that this feels very unlike all the other times you have washed that body, because the body was shaped by the soul which animated its physiology—because the physiology was teeming with life. Washing a dead body feels very different than washing a living one. Death feels very different than life. Absence does indeed have a presence. Death is the absence of life. Death has a presence.
The covid19 plague is life, it is our life. It is the mirror, the reflection, the trial, the hardship that is the ease. This plague is an ending that’s really a beginning, a series of wounds that together provide a doorway through which change will flow. Plague has come to ask us what we value and why. It has come to remind us of our vulnerability and fragility and our smallness and impotence in the universal scheme of things. Plague has come to show us that our society can only have as much strength as its foundation does—look around you, look at the precarious structures we have built on the weakest and flimsiest of foundations.
It feels very dark right now. That’s because we are the light. Many don’t seem to grasp this, yet many do. I don’t feel like the light right now, and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I tell myself everything will be okay because, really, what is the alternative? I try my best to redirect my mind away from the catastrophising and flashbacks of all the times I fought against asthmatic airways and struggled to breathe. I try my best to downplay my deathly encounter with pneumonia 10 years ago and how I believed my heart would stop or explode, lying in that observation unit, staring at that 157 bpm SVT flashing on the monitor.
Up until a few days ago, I had purposefully kept all covid19 news at a distance. Something happened. Italy. Iran. The UK. The USA. Seeing that curve. Seeing those dots on that map. Seeing the lies and complacency from the US and UK leadership. Seeing the panic clear shelves. Seeing those shelves stay bare in the face of empty assurances that no one apparently believes. I can scarcely believe the world I live in right now. I can barely believe I’ve lived 51 years, the last 10 have been sheer hell, only to arrive at this utter gong show. I feel such disappointment in humanity. As much good as I see and feel, I know we can do and be so much more. Even in the face of plague, we chose to hold back. I feel sad at this reality. And I feel hopeful that perhaps the tide of humanity can change through this plague.
Wash your hands. Take only what you need. Compassion is the only way through.