What About the Plague?

Rodin, 1909

What About the Plague?

 I feel it’s a privilege to be alive at this time, 

as it is at all times.

It’s now being said that we can’t shake hands – perhaps ever again!  Henceforth, our hands will be condemned as bearers of lethality.

If we are to embrace our humanity again, it’s vital to get this one figured out.  It’s up to us (as human beings, some of whom do scientific research) to make it safe – or at least safer? — to shake hands.

We speak of people being out of touch, having lost touch, having the common touch, the human touch, staying in touch.  After infancy, we go beyond touch and learn to talk but — at the very start of our memories —

touch is the human norm.

It’s been reported that the present plague originated in the “wet markets” of Wuhan, where stuff like boiled bats gets added to the soup.  If that’s so, with global traffic carrying toxic practices to every latitude, we are going to have to figure out how to get these dictators

to clean up

their acts.

It’s speculated that further viral waves might follow in succession, in the wake of our present distress.

If so, then we as a human race will need to find more rapid methods for detecting infection and building remedies.

There is one affliction I sense besetting us all, whether or not we have personal losses to mourn: plague deaths can’t be honored by farewells or proper ceremony.  There are too many of them and the dying person may be contagious.

It seems to me, though I have no way of verifying this, that there is nonetheless

a great welling up

from all these frustrated farewells.

Even if they can’t now be exchanged face to face, they are still being experienced — in the collective silence.  We feel them.  We are not indifferent.

The policy decisions, about steps and stages of societal recovery, are beyond my competence or reach.  Different nations and, in our own country, states are experimenting with different strategies.  Perhaps one size won’t fit every circumstance.  It’s only retrospectively that we may get a rough idea of which regimen did the least harm, what trade-offs were better or worse.  At present, every plan must be educated guesswork.

Just as the farewells surround us with their muted fullness of feeling, so I have the sense, accurate or not, that many of the small businesses and services that humanize our days are not crushed yet — only on standby.

They are our reserves of activity, of creativity, of personal contact, of skill and practicality.  They address the needs of our complex human situation.  An important number will manage their necessary struggles to survive and welcome us back.

And we will be …

so very glad

to see them again.

About Abigail

Abigail Rosenthal is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY. She is the author of A Good Look at Evil, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, now available in an expanded, revised second edition and as an audiobook. Its thesis is that good people try to live out their stories while evil people aim to mess up good people’s stories. Her next book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, forthcoming and illustrated, provides multiple illustrations from her own life. She writes a weekly column for her blog, “Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column” (www.dearabbie-nonadvice.com) where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. She’s the editor of the posthumously published Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Secret; Spinoza’s Way by her father, Henry M. Rosenthal. Some of her articles can be accessed at https://brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/AbigailMartin . She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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