Friday, March 20, 2020


The world, as we have known it. is now suddenly, irreversibly and
indelibly altered.

The full dimensions of this, and its eventual consequences, are now
unknown. The duration of the global and domestic emergency is
now uncertain.

As if all of that were not enough, most commercial, cultural and
social life is suspended as everyone retreats to their homes to wait
for an undetermined date of relief.

A comparable pandemic occurred more than 100 years ago, so no
one alive today has an adult memory  of that scourge which
appeared as the violence of a savage world war was ending.

Although the fighting of that war ceased in late 1918, the influenza
pandemic spawned in its waning days went on --- as if Nature were
punishing humanity for wasting so much life on the battlefields.
Nor did that world war end with its armistice. Its hatreds and
rivalries broke out again and again in the years that followed,
including a second world war with even more violence and
savagery. Nor when that war was formally ended, did the hatreds
and rivalries cease, but they broke out again here and there --- to
the present day.

The present pandemic emergency has unfolded so quickly, it might
still seem like a nightmarish dream.  It is, alas, no dream.

As we wake up to this time of contagion, we have a rare moment,
if we so choose, to think about matters usually left to poets and
philosophers --- that is, who we are as a species, how we are living
together on this earth, and what are the most vital conditions and
needs in each person’s daily life.

The latter is perhaps the more immediate issue. Most of us go
through our days as if they were destinations chosen by a TV
channel selector.

As human beings --- each with different life histories and life
experiences ---we will come up with different answers. But
whatever those answers, if they are as honest as possible, they will
be about survival --- and since this emergency reveals once again
how much we depend on those nearest to us (whether we “like”
them or not), there are bound to be significant common links to our
variety of answers.

I do not, at this point, presume to say what those links are, but I do
say, in light of this global crisis, that we have been sleepwalking
through our own history.

Necessity has awakened us. Few of us are poets and philosophers,
but all of us are participants. Dire as this moment seems, the
present emergency will somehow eventually pass. But if we revert
to sleepwalking when it does, then when the next global threat
appears --- and one or more will appear ---  simply waking up
again might not be enough.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

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