Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pandemics and What We Lose Beyond Lives

In the past days, I've been thinking about all the things we've lost, either permanently or just for right now:

--I've thought about all the plans I had for students, from Easter egg hunts to library displays to Poem in Your Pocket Day.  We will miss the national Scrabble day.  We have canceled all the speakers and the special development for both faculty and students.  These losses are the least of what we face, and yet occasionally, my breath catches.

--On Sunday, I made this Facebook post:  "Watching Garth Brooks and the Gershwin Prize PBS show, so many excellent musicians, hoping that John Prine does not lie dying."  I know that  we would be losing our elders to some disease, if it wasn't this disease.  But it's sobering.

--And it's not just artists.  I know several research scientists, and I only have the shadowiest outlines of the scientific research that can't move forward in this time.  Perhaps those scientists will only lose a month of two of work.  But the reality is likely to be much more grim.  What cures aren't being discovered because work has ground to a halt or been shifted to other projects?  What discoveries won't be made?

--I talked to my sister on the phone.  She lives close enough to my parents that she can go see them, but she does have to cross state lines.  We find ourselves talking about closing of the borders.  It's very strange.  I always knew that there might come a time when she might have to do more in terms of care of our parents, but I thought it would be because of my work schedule, not because a pandemic was sweeping the country, and I live in a disease hotspot.

Of course, I could make an alternate list of things we've lost:

--rigid ideas about how education must be delivered.  The same is true of many systems:  education, church, social services, entertainment, therapies of all types.

--the idea that we can't help the poor and unemployed.

--the notion that work can only be done in an office chair in an office.

We live in uncertain times, but let me take my own advice:  Take precautions, but don't let this pestilence paralyze you.

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