1 August 2020
Imagine a scale. For deeply personal reasons, you want it to balance. You can’t remember why. You place weights on either side. Good things. Bad things. Each thought has its weight. You keep going, waiting for the scale to hit equlibrium. It never does.
The world is noisy quiet. Advances are retreats. Maybe the Feds will withdraw in Portland. Maybe they won’t. Hustling peaceful protestors off the streets and into unmarked vans is a story point from an America I don’t remember knowing. We can’t go back to the old America. The old America benefits old white men. Thankfully, the old America isn’t an option any longer. We have a chance now for Black lives to matter and to distribute power equitably. We can make real progress. But then again, in November the election might be delayed as it has already been in Hong Kong.
Locating normal on a map has become hopeless.
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, two brothers who wrote the novel Monday Starts on Saturday, responded to the absurdity and cruelty of the Soviet Union with their own brand of cruel absurdity. They turned science into magic, made up go down, convinced their readers, as long as they had the book in their hands, that there was no sense to logic.
In Monday Starts on Saturday, the Strugatskys proved that believing in magic is better than wrestling with science. In their world, science didn’t have the stability of fantasy. This idea works now in our world. The problem with science is that it’s always under revision. You must revise your thinking as you learn more and accept that your beliefs are fragile. Fantasy, on the other hand, is eternal. Simply believe: You’re set. No need to revise as facts come to light. No need to wear a mask to protect other people. No need for testing — more testing proves that there are more cases. Who needs more cases? Stick with fantasy and collectively walk down a crooked path until you reach a shack at the end called Unhinged. We are all together in that shack. Break open another bottle of wine. We’ll have a toast! To what? Your choice, because I can’t feel anything more today.
We put weights on the scale. Someday it might balance. We beat the virus. The virus isn’t gone. Supermarket shelves fill with bottles of hand sanitizer. The Walls of Moms who march are inspiring. Restaurants open. They close. The streets outside our apartment vibrate with the sound of power drills. One of the local restaurants is building more outdoor seating. Optimism is the sound of power tools in the morning.
After India went into lockdown to try to slow the transmission of Covid-19, the polluted skies over Delhi, one of the world’s most polluted cities, started to clear. Power produced by solar panels there increased by more than eight percent. Small number? It’s the difference between how solar panels perform in a sunny place like Houston and a less sunny place like Toronto. The silver lining of the virus. Strange thought.
The world has become quieter, too. Dutch seismologists discovered that fewer vehicles on the road caused the Earth to vibrate less. The New York Times made a study of this, using similar data to show that cities are quieter during the pandemic.
I missed that NYT article because I haven’t been doomscrolling the news. When I catch up, it hits me like a rock. Herman Cain dead. Roger Stone free. Statues toppled. Confederate flags lowered. Mothers marching city by city to support Black Lives Matter. White mothers. Retirees. Dads marching with leaf blowers to blow away the tear gas. All these moments are weights placed on the scale. Good. Bad. Equilibrium, maybe someday.
(c) Lee Schneider 2021. Take care of each other. Subscribe.