Most of us alive today have never lived through anything like this. A worldwide disease outbreak (a “pandemic”!) so bad that governments rich and poor alike have shut down their economies. Unprecedented, we are told, again and again.
I’m trying to make sense of it all. Like everybody else, I’m spending more time online. And I’ve spent too much of that time reading articles about Covid-19. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we need more testing to make any kind of response on the economy that isn’t either ham-handed (total shut-down) or homicidal (open back up).
Otherwise, I’ve just got more questions than answers. Questions like:
1. Will anybody read this article if I start by talking about death?
Wouldn’t it be better to start with a joke about protocol in a Zoom meeting?
2. When will my dad’s death sink in?
My father Richard Curren died more than a month ago from Covid-19. Yet, I can’t seem to believe that he’s gone. I wrote this essay about it.
I just learned that his grandmother Carrie Curren died of the “Spanish” flu in 1918. I cherish irony wherever I can find it these days.
3. How many other people will die?
My dad was one of the first people who were confirmed to die of Covid-19 in the state of Florida, a place full of old people like him but apparently governed by somewhat younger people who don’t seem overly worried about more deaths in the state’s many retirement homes. How many others will die in Florida, both old and young? Across the country? In my town?
4. Will I die too?
Stupid question, I know. I mean, will I die of Covid-19 or live through this pestilence long enough to die of some other cause? Judging by my own case, apparently, even guys in their fifties like me find it easy to forget that we won’t live forever.
5. If I have a dry throat, is that a symptom of Covid-19?
What if my left shoulder hurts when I cough? Isn’t coughing at all a bad sign? Or if I’m tired during the day, does that mean I might be infected?
6. When will things open up again?
Will it be in June, or in November, or sometime in 2022? What does opening up mean? Will things go back to any kind of normal? Or a “new” normal? Will we be close enough to elbow bump or will we still be walking on the other side of the street? And after the stay-home orders expire, will there still be any offices, restaurants and schools to go to?
7. Will the economy recover in a V-shape, like the president has predicted, rebounding as quickly as it fell?
Or will it be more of a checkmark shape, with a quick drop when things shut down but a slow rise on the other side? Or maybe the recovery will be shaped like an L, just hitting bottom and then sliding along that bottom for who knows how long? Would that even count as a recovery at all?
8. If everything is going to be different after Covid-19, will it be 2008-different or 1933-different?
Or maybe Mad Max-different or Planet of the Apes-different? Or a silver-lining type of different that we don’t even have any movies about?
As business gurus never tire of reminding us, a crisis is a good opportunity for change that we shouldn’t waste.
So, maybe that means we can finally get the Green New Deal?
Will stories about how badly we need nurses, grocery store workers and long-haul truckers inspire us to pay them better? Will photos of clear air and clean water inspire us to get serious about climate change?
Will airplanes still fly?
9. How soon will we forget about Covid-19?
Europeans lived with the bubonic plague on and off for 400 years from the 14th through the 18th centuries. They couldn’t forget it. So they found a way to remember. They erected Plague Columns in public squares across the continent to give thanks for their deliverance after an outbreak. But Americans forgot the influenza outbreak of 1918-1920 as quickly as they could. I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t find any memorials to that.
9 1/2. What does it all mean?
Since there’s no answer, this question will never be more than half of a query.
And these days, you don’t have to be a philosophy major who’s into Nietzsche or a professional existentialist to ask about, well, existence.
What if Covid-19 means nothing? Or everything? Or what if it means nothing and everything at the same time?
What if it means something different if you die or if you live? What if it means something different if you prosper or if you just manage to get by OK on savings or if you get evicted from your apartment?
— Erik Curren