The pandemic is somewhat abated here, but in other places around the globe, it’s still raging. Americans tend to think of it as “over” because we’re so parochial. The rest of the world is out of sight and, so, out of mind for the majority of Americans. And no one else on the planet is more important than us.
I don’t agree with that stance, and there are a lot of other people who don’t. But we do oftentimes seem to be in the minority.
While looking for a discussion topic to write for work, I came across this acceptance speech by Ursula LeGuin for the 2014 National Book Award. She names the plagues of our times, long before the biological plague, COVID-19, appeared. And she calls on artists—particularly writers, since that’s her art—to redress the wrongs, to write of freedom and hope. In her words [time stamp 1:24–2:19],
I have loved Ursula LeGuin since I first read her Wizard of Earthsea trilogy when I was, I don’t remember how old. Somewhere in my early teens, I suspect. I think I’ve read everything she ever wrote since. If you haven’t read her yet, you’re missing out on a brilliant mind and impeccable writer. She is one of my heroes.
Omicron. Rogue variants. Potential World War III on the Russian-Ukrainian border. The mess we’ve left in Afghanistan, which is costing the lives of thousands of innocent people. And the foundational fear: the Earth is understandably trying to get rid of us with decimating storms, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, drought, dead bees, and plagues.
I “manage” all this stress and anxiety by ignoring it. Feeling it all, all the time, would crush me. So I pay no attention to it. I think it’s what most of us do. We’re all living like semi-zombies these days.
Sometimes, like today, I spring a leak and all the fear busts up to the surface. I feel very needy. Then I push it back down again and ignore it until the next leak.
I get some solace from my desktop window image. It’s from San Xavier del Bac, south of Tucson. I took the photo the last time we were able to go visit friends there, which was a couple of weeks before the plague shut everything down. Little did we know.
In 2 months, we’ll be into our 3rd year of the pandemic. The latest variant—Omicron—is way more contagious but less deadly, if you’re fully vaccinated. The virus remains a mystery, so future variants can’t be predicted. Except that there are bound to be more.