Quickie Post — Nuance in the Time of Coronavirus

A Cuban Robusto, as far away from civilization as you can get — West Papua, Indonesia

That picture is probably not going to end up in the Patagonia catalog, needless to say.

FWIW, I’ve had some serious misgivings about even writing anything that goes against the official narrative of how to deal with COVID-19. Mostly because I believe that the official actions — lockdown, social distancing — are likely the best we can do in this critical circumstance, at this time. That will change, of course — because things always change.

The alternative is people being total idiots and acting like their actions don’t matter. I don’t care if your holy place is your church on Easter Sunday, or the beach. At this point in the pandemic, if you bunch up, and you’re in an area that hasn’t had exposure, your loved ones are going to die. Or maybe you will.

If, however, you’ve been in a place where this wee beastie has been hanging around for a while, all bets are off whether you, or your loved ones will be affected. That’s because we don’t know a lot. Our global statistics are mediocre at best, and our US statistics, other than folks getting toe-tagged, are pure bullshit. I used to teach sampling theory, and any statistician who has had a high-level undergraduate class in lot sampling will tell you that is NOT what we’re doing procedurally, correctly, with any of the data we’re collecting.

The best example of random sampling that I’ve seen is celebrity COVID testing. Why? Because all of us, by this point immersed in the media stream, have to be a little paranoid. And in the U.S., in the land of the Divine Right of Money, at least randomly paranoid-selected celebrities get to indulge that same paranoia, and send their fixer out to either find a doctor who can get a gray-market test, or find someone to indulge their fetish, or both. Money might not be able to buy you love. But I guarantee that it can get you a COVID test if you have enough of it. And I think that we should be duly grateful toward our celebrities who are willing to have a swab shoved up their nose, for the good of the order. Or whatever. John Prine died, and I liked him, so there is some evidence that the virus doesn’t recognize celebrity status. I’m not so sure I’m reassured by all of that.

The point of all this is the COVID-19 is a modern challenge, and while I wouldn’t call it a real wake-up call (that’s reserved for the fact that we’re bleaching the hell out of the coral that makes up the Great Barrier Reef) it’s definitely a shot across the bow. The thing about a sharp kick in the ass is that, if well placed, it makes you hurt in all sorts of places. That’s the nuance part of it. And we need more, not less, of that. Both sharp kicks, and the sympathetic pain they might produce.

And it’s not because I want to sit in some smoky bar in Berlin, and argue with a bunch of Scandinavian intellectuals about what Deleuze might have thought about this, while Weimar-era cabaret music plays in the background. Actually, that sounds pretty cool. I love me my Scandinavian intellectual friends. And maybe even some Edith Piaf.

It’s really more because, at least for those of us that decided to have kids, we made some choices about not opting for the end of the world. And that is going to require some appreciation of the finer details, and quirks of fate of how all this will play out. As well as some fundamental humility that we should sit, wait and learn a little before acting.

Because our brains are going to be the thing that gets us out of this. I promise — for the real masochists that read this blog, I’ll write down the more complex version of how collective intelligence is shifting and poking, and moving all those v-Memes around. I guarantee that if you don’t have at least a Masters degree in system science, you’ll be reaching for your Wikipedia. But the short version is that we all better do some serious thinking and listening. And think some more — about what is real, and what is created in some wacky corner of our minds.

If I leave you with one final thought, it’s what I’ve always found to be true. Nuance, and surprise, are beautiful. My mind can create many things. But there’s no greater thrill it gets than being shown that it hasn’t completely figured the world out. Because, like Hamlet said so famously, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” If we can’t maintain our sense of surprise, what’s the point in keeping on living?

4 thoughts on “Quickie Post — Nuance in the Time of Coronavirus

  1. ‘I’ll write down the more complex version of how collective intelligence is shifting and poking, and moving all those v-Memes around. I guarantee that if you don’t have at least a Masters degree in system science, you’ll be reaching for your Wikipedia.’

    I would LOVE to read that!

    Liked by 1 person

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