History in Times of Free Fall

All of a sudden the orange I eat in the mornings has become drastically more important. I had that thought this morning.

You can feel it when you open your phone. The worldwide panic I mean.

The artist Mount Eerie had a similar situation. He wrote the album A Crow Looked at Me after his wife died of pancreatic cancer. In “Emptiness Pt. 2,” he sang:

“Conceptual negation was cool to talk about, back before I knew my way around these hospitals.”

Meaning that we barely consider that we are living in history. Until the train moves just a little too hard to the left, the airplane we’re flying on hits a pocket, or the S&P 500 drops 6% in mere hours.

“Don’t check your retirement accounts for a while,” a friend texted me.

History is like religion in the sense that when we’re good we hardly go back to the books. But then when things get nasty, we end up praying.

The movie Contagion was recommended to me on YouTube today.

I do not even need to say the particular “contagion” out loud. You know what I am referring to. We all know now, if we didn’t before, that we are living a kind of history. How drastically it will make its way into 10th grade world history textbooks has yet to be determined. For right now, there are less planes in the air, less cruise ships, less money exchanging hands. It is like the grandfather clock and we cannot find the winding key.

They say to not touch your face and I simply cannot stop touching my face. It has gotten to the point where even the history of my bodily functions is now out there to be scrutinized. How did we even make it far enough to write our own history?

Did those under the curse of the Spanish Flu know that they were living in one of the most destructive moments in human history? War and disease at an unprecedented scale?

They were too busy dying.

People tell you as a child that life is precarious, and the act of being alive is a rare gift. Unfortunately you don’t really internalize it, because of the amount of life lived is so short, or the little opportunities for freedom keep your life routine, or the sphere of influence you have is left to your home, your church, your school, and so on.

So that when you grow up and the prefrontal lobe finally comes back from sabbatical, you have a second education to learn. A second history. That is the history of human frailty.

Perhaps in the ensuing lockdowns and disinfections and overall immovability of the world in the next couple of weeks, right when spring break is at its apex, ironically, you could hold your family and friends tight (or at least rub elbows) and tell them unconditionally that you are so lucky to be alive. And that you love to see them near you.

Or at least in the opposite bedroom…

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