If I hear, "We're all in this together" or "existential threat" one more time, I may start screaming offensively. Enough already! What needs to be discussed is what part of being in an ecosystem do we humans just not comprehend?
The old saw that "everything is connected" is a much more useful mental image for this situation than beating ourselves over the head about togetherness, which, when it comes to contagion, is actually the problem. Yes, togetherness is an emotional, psychological and patriotic blanket, but it can stretch just so far. For too long we've ignored understanding our ecological complexities and now we're trying to deconstruct our very connected lives in order to save ourselves from each other. And, it's not easy.
Financial loss is a colossal wrench thrown into the workings of a human ecosystem because we no longer live in trees or hunt and gather for sustenance. Instead, we spend what we've made at our jobs to feather our nests with the basics and luxuries that have been created by others. When neither feathers nor basics are available at any price, we, and our once secure personal ecosystems, are cut adrift to fend for ourselves. That's when trouble can begin.
We live so separated from nature now, we do not know how to get food, water, warmth or transport without depending on other humans or machinery, which are integral to our modern-day networks. For good reason, we now call these basics "essential services."
Our habitat is our life-support system. Since the early rudimentary studies of our environment began, the first principle in understanding diverse existence has been location, location, location. Where we (and every other living organism) dwell determines how we connect to the rest of the world. Whether our built habitat is a house, igloo, apartment, tent, yurt, castle or under a bridge, we need certain things from outside ourselves to keep us functioning inside ourselves. That's where we connect with the natural environment, and the social one as well.
Humans' most basic needs are food and water followed closely by shelter and an energy source to warm us and to cook our food. All the rest are extras, luxuries actually. At this time of contagion across our globe, we have been offered a chance to really define the difference between need and want. If we shelter-in-place for weeks or months, we will have the time to analyze our habitats in minute detail (and do some early spring cleaning). Perhaps we will begin to see just how, and even perhaps why, we depend on a healthy physical environment for survival.
It's only been a little over a week, at most, of sincere social distancing, but we are certainly doing a lot of moaning about it. Given enough distance for perspective, we might take the time to examine the whys of our relationships and activities. Some of us will put life on hold and resume our old ways when this bug is gone. And, some will be in withdrawal until they can again go to church, a bar or a sports event. Others will cheat and come out of hiding early or never self-quarantine in the first place. And, there will be those for whom everything will have changed. To quote our strange leader, "Who knew?" Indeed, who knew we liked each other so much that separation would be such a hardship?
Who knew that a virus would go viral? Well, a lot of people actually, just not the ones in power. Now that it's loose, we've got to outsmart it. The brighter minds advise we starve the virus by refusing to host it. It's sneaky and sticks to stuff, floats around and aims for our noses as it makes its way to our lungs, the habitat it wants.
Touching surfaces or each other has taken on meanings we've never associated with touch before. Neil Diamond has even spoofed the words in "Sweet Caroline," his biggest hit, from "Hands -- touching hands," to "Hands -- washing hands," providing us with a some levity online (neil diamond washing hands) to all the doom and gloom.
But, it was losing the great Kenny Rogers a few days ago that reminded me of the meaning he so smoothly put on being a gambler in life, when he sang about knowing when to hold your cards and when to fold them. I suspect the same goes for gambling with lives in pandemics. Hold on!
Commentary on 03/24/2020
Print Headline: Of holding and folding