Viruses and vulnerability

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artist: Hope Gangloff

some ramblings of the mind

In this moment we are confronted with our own human vulnerability and our interconnectedness with one another. There is something deeply disruptive in this collective realization of our mortality and the mortality of those around us, the mortality of the people we know and love.

Part of being vulnerable is this very realization that we are not solitary beings, that our bodies matter deeply and we can’t escape them. Where is the sacred right now? Our bodies get sick. It is really difficult, it is so heartbreaking to hear about how many people are dying, how many vulnerable human beings who may be elderly or disabled are in danger from this. I am young and I will be okay, but it’s not about me. What is ethical? The ethical changes in this moment. I think this really is a moment that I have to question and push back against what I always believed my identity to be—or what I thought it should be. Or what I put my worth in.

The sky is gray and the ocean is silver today, and it is so achingly beautiful and suddenly I have re-discovered why I love the ocean so much. It knows our vulnerability and invites us to ponder our vulnerability. Like a little murderous virus, like a big wide ocean at night where you can’t tell where the sky begins and the ocean ends. Where stars and boat lights look the same.

How can we hold onto these little beautiful things even in our pain and unknowing? Even in this unprecedented moment? We are going through something incredibly painful collectively and all of our technological inventions can’t stop this virus. We are still vulnerable humans. That is just the truth.

Painful reckonings with my own fear of being forgotten, that I just decay behind a computer screen, decay with every email I write instead of every voice I hear. I think this is a fear for so many of us and it really festers in the hot searing stabs of loneliness that we are bound to feel in this time of isolation and fear.

But I know I won’t be forgotten by my family, by my roommates—and they are the ones that matter. What will I remember from college? My friendships with them. My lifelines in the dark. I will follow you into the dark. So much suffering around us, encircling us like the fraying burning edges of a paper held over a candle. Enclosing in on us from all sides, smoking and flaming sides.

I write for no one but me. Ultimately that is another thing—will my writing go anywhere now because of this virus? Does my writing have to go somewhere? Does my writing have value even if no one ever reads it but me? Is it still good? Does it still matter… even after I die and still no one reads it?

Like I’m shouting into the dark abyss. This is the abyss. We are confronting it—the abyss of the unknown. Of the awful, of the scary and uncertain—the abyss of abysses, which is our vulnerability. Our flesh-ridden existence that is susceptible to disease and yet we learn to love and act justly in the midst of it, we learn to write and create art and think and still manage to have fun and find some semblance of joy even when it all is awful, so awful and sad.

What is the line between social distancing and radical social need? A total disruption of everything. Of every single thing. All ways of being—capitalist, egoist. All disrupted. All ruptured.

Thinking about when this is all over, and the mess of the world we will have. Of the extreme poverty and pain. Of the unemployment, of the anxiety. Will there be war? My mind is going to worse-case scenarios at the moment.

Yet there is a human need to love. That is also part of being vulnerable. Realizing we aren’t meant to do it alone, do life alone. We are meant to be together. We are meant to love. That is what it means to be just. To attend to the call of the other. What does it mean to attend to the call of the other in these trying and uncertain times?

Maybe there is no answer right now. There has never been a single answer because there is so much difference in the world. This virus is showing our radical entanglement with one another. It is proving it. It is end-of-the-worldish, but there is something terrifyingly beautiful about this realization we may all have, that the actions we take affect others, that entanglement is a given. We are all so entangled. So vulnerable. So flesh.

The clocks tick and this makes me anxious now. Time goes on and more people are getting sick. And we’ll find out more and more. And we cannot control the grief, the pain, the sadness this causes. But yes. Love goes on. Love remains.

And when all misfortune befell on the human race, hope still remained. Kierkegaard speaking some truth into our human existence.

What really matters? Ultimately, not my degree, not even my classes that I love so much. What matters is my relationships, what matters is the love in my life, what matters is how I respond to my neighbor’s needs. Even my writing doesn’t matter at that point. And I think that’s what’s making me sad. Who is Cassidy if she is not proving her brilliance and academic intellect? Who is Cassidy if she is just Cassidy?




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