Friday, August 1, 2014

The Apocalypse Gal Considers Ebola

Any readers out there following the Ebola outbreak?  I realize that I have an unhealthy fascination with virulent disease.  I like apocalypse scenarios of all kinds, but I'm partial to the disease vector of apocalypse.  I'm fascinated by how our modern artists of all kinds have linked disease and zombies, but disease itself can be plenty scary even if it doesn't transform us into otherworldly creatures.

When I first taught the first half of the British survey class, I did some of my own research into the outbreaks of the plague through the centuries--fascinating!  In such a short time, you could be a survivor of an area that had lost 50% of its residents.  I was captivated by all the changes that took place in the wake of each plague, especially the first outbreak.

Ebola is even more deadly, with it's 90-95% death rate.  And unlike AIDS, it spreads very easily.  Thankfully, thus far it's not like TB--it's not an airborne disease.

Of course, it's the very deadliness of the disease that often stops the outbreak.  Diseases that are most successful keep their hosts alive long enough to facilitate the spread of the disease.  Early Ebola outbreaks were halted when whole villages died.

Earlier this week, I was listening to this NPR On Point show on a book that's set in the year 2393 and looks at climate change.  And throughout the week, there's been the undercurrent of news stories about this latest Ebola outbreak:  highest victim count of any outbreak, Peace Corps workers called out of the countries afflicted, borders being sealed.

My inner apocalypse gal worries about a variety of scenarios.  I know that we're likely to be whacked by a scenario we'd never considered.  When you study how World War I came about, it seems so unlikely.  I imagine our next big disaster will be similar.

I'm also interested in disease as metaphor.  Now I'm no Susan Sontag.  I'm not going to issue any challenges to her definitive work on the subject, at least not this morning.  But I do have a poem!

My question about disease and metaphor is about how outrageous the comparison can be and still hold together.  Ebola kills as the cell walls collapse--thus the huge amount of bleeding.  During a time of many emotional meltdowns, I thought of the disease and the metaphorical possibility.  But I do wonder if the poem works. 

I did check with my epidemiologist brother-in-law to make sure that I understood the disease.  He says that the poem works from that stand point.  But does it work if we don't know the facts of the disease?

And a more important issue:  am I linking the serious and the trivial? 

You decide:

Emotional Ebola

I suffer from emotional ebola.
My cell walls do not hold,
my blood vessels collapse
under the weight of the throbbing
fevers, thrashing feelings.

Contradictory moods meld into each other
leaving me flushed and feverish.
I stagger around the isolation ward
that my house has become.  All visitors
banned, so as not to infect
them with my mad moodiness.

I go through the days in a stupor,
barely able to move,
felled by the deadliest disease,
no vaccine, no cure.

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