In the midst of social distancing, I was listening to and watching a video on Youtube of the performance of Bach’s Mass in b minor. It was compelling to me how the interplay of each instrument, and vocal range, all played a part in making this remarkable music what it is. The loss of one instrument, one vocal range, or the conductor holding it all together, would have diminished the work immeasurably. We humans are social animals and it is more than a truism that we collectively can accomplish what individually we cannot.
This strength we humans possess in our collective interdependence is sometimes exploited by microbes of various stripes. And such it is that a virus is spreading via our most human trait, human collaboration and contact. So in order to impede this virus, we need to do this most unhuman thing — isolate. Any student of history can testify to the disruption events like this can cause. We live on a continent where the indigenous inhabitants were decimated by diseases sourced in a far off land. My ancestors faced the Black Death that decimated Europe and caused widespread political and economic disruption.
This is scary for us humans because it is against our nature to isolate. As much as some of us pride ourselves on our self-reliance, times like this remind us of our vulnerability and dependence upon others. Our supply networks of truckers bringing goods from producers are essential to our survival. Only at times like these do we realize that vulnerability and the response can be fear. Most of us have not encountered situations like this in our lifetime.
I can speak for myself that my interactions during the day with various people, from co-workers to employees of the businesses I frequent, enriches my life immeasurably. Reducing that contact gives me the feeling of something missing. I also worry about friends of mine who work jobs dependent upon human interaction like waiters/waitresses, those in the entertainment industry, and other industries affected. I also worry about employees whose work is essential to our supply chains and any increased exposure they may have to this virus (grocery, convenience and health care workers I’m looking at you). All this worry can overwhelm if we are not careful. It can lead to fear, and most decisions based upon fear are usually poorly thought out.
In the midst of this isolation, now is the time to be community-minded. Panic buying of toilet paper and other essentials exposes our vulnerability not to just to a virus, but our collective interdependence and sense of community. It is like taking out the trumpets out of Bach’s Mass in b minor. Now is the time to step up, not out. Trying times define our character better than good times. Let us all commit to be one of the adults in the room. Collectively, we will get through this and 20 years from now we’ll laugh about the TP shortage of 2020 and an earthquake made that shortage relevant.
After our recent earthquake, a dear friend I hadn’t talked to in months texted me to check in on me. This was a reminder to me of the power of human contact. Even if it is via social networking, stay connected. We collectively can do what individually I cannot. May our isolation remind us of the power of we.
David Swan lives in Tooele City.