A year ago this weekend I was in Seattle for my mom's funeral (see post #83). That's the last time I was on a plane. Flying back to L.A. the next day, as far as I can remember, I was not required to wear a mask. The memory is a bit fuzzy, but I seem to remember mask mandates coming a week or so after that.
This last year has been a world-wide reminder; a reminder that we are a vulnerable species, that we took the 'modern' sophisticated world of 2018 for granted, and that it was always possible for it to be shut down. Pandemics can happen. We know this now. Bad things in general can happen. The 1918 Flu happened. The Black Death happened (though admittedly medieval hygiene was pretty bad). The Great Depression happened. Cancer happens. An asteroid hit Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs - then the dominant species on Earth.
One of our greatest ever Presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, battled a case of polio when he was young. As President he could barely stand up without crutches. Now, thanks to vaccines, polio is essentially eradicated from the planet. I mean, when I think about it, I'm pretty happy that polio was not a thing anymore when I was growing up.
For decades, last century, the U.S. and Russia pointed insane amounts of nuclear firepower at each other and dared the other to blink. Calling either side's bluff would have meant world-wide catastrophe. Wait, that's still a possibility, isn't it.
What will it be in the future? When will it be? two years ago, those question would have been theoretical, rhetorical. Today 'what will it be' and 'when will it be' are real questions to think about, and of course no one knows the answer.
So, this morning I made my way from Venice, California to the vaccination hub at The Forum in Inglewood. Along with all the writing, film, and publishing projects I'm involved in, I also do some teaching, so, being able to call myself a teacher allowed me to jump ahead of the waitlist for this morning's appointment.
The nurse told me to 'take it easy' for a couple days. Hm? Take it easy? "So I guess that means my Saturday afternoon four-and-half-miles is off?" I asked. She told me that when she got her first dose she felt terrible the rest of the day, then fine the next day. I don't feel terrible. Maybe the arm I took the shot in is feeling a little odd, so I decided not to jog, and just walked a few miles. I think I'm about to find out if going out at all was a good or a bad thing.
I have reflected some, this week, on the strangeness of this past year. Images come back to me of waiting in line just to get into the grocery store (this still happens some, but nothing like it did last April), people suddenly existing only on Zoom, rather than in person. I remember Black Lives Matter protests, back in May and June, resulting in National Guard troops being stationed around nearby street corners. I remember a Presidential election. I remember sports shutting down - until they came back in empty stadiums. My own regular Saturday night semi-organized soccer game shut down. I haven't run around a soccer field in a year.
It won't be long before we start taking things for granted again. People will either forget or block it out. It won't be long before kids won't know what we're talking about when we mention COVID; "Oh, COVID that was that disease that happened way back in ancient history. Was that the same time as World War two?"
But life will not instantly bounce back to normal. Life won't bounce back to normal for any of the families of the more than 2 and 1/2 million people (world-wide) that the pandemic took away. Life won't bounce back to normal for those who have lost a job. As I walk through my neighborhood, down a street once bustling with restaurants, shops and various other businesses, I see lots of empty store-fronts. I see lots of places that, a year ago I thought were solid successful business, that are now closed.
We will get our lives back. Better times are coming, but I think we would be wise to gain some perspective from this past year. We would be wise to be a little more humble than we were before. We are a vulnerable species, and in spite of our best efforts...shit happens!
Here's hoping for better times!
March 13, 2021