“Don’t you love being alive?” “Don’t you love weather and the colors... and all the sounds and noises like children screaming in the next lot, and automobile horns and little bands playing in the street and the smell of food cooking?” asks one of the characters in Katherine Anne Porter’s “Pale Horse, Pale Rider,” a story on surviving the 1918 flu pandemic.
We have not been through a war nor is this pandemic like that one. We did experience a very deep economic crisis that changed everything, though this was nothing compared to the two world wars and pandemics of yesteryear. Nevertheless, we have reached our limits and are in the darkest part of a major adventure. History is punishing us because as members of a “plastic” generation, we thought some things would never happen again. Ever impatient, we now want to fast-forward to the end of this particular horror film.
But the film will end, be it in three, four or six months’ time. The end of the pandemic will be declared and I have a feeling it will be a moment of collective relief, if not euphoria, reminiscent of those scenes at the end of World War II, of people celebrating with all their heart.
The truth is that we have been deprived of a lot: embracing our loved ones, having a good time with friends for no particular reason, hanging out. We were prepared to go above and beyond for the first lockdown, to laugh at things that were new at the time. The barrage of videos and jokes we swapped in spring were funny, whimsical and showed great reserves of courage. Now they are bitter and less humorous. It makes sense. Many people are struggling to make ends meet and cannot stand the uncertainty anymore. They want to know when they’ll be able to open their shops again so they can start from the beginning.
Some people find comfort in conspiracy theories that seek to explain the inexplicable. It’s hard to make them see that they’re walking into a trap, but it’s also wrong to ostracize them.
We are where we are. The time will come when we can hug again, when we can be archetypal Greeks gathered around a taverna table, having a drink with friends, without being afraid of getting sick or another lockdown. This chapter will certainly leave scars: For some they will be huge, for others much smaller.
But there are two things we must not forget. The first is that this planet and this country have been through much, much worse. The second is that at least now we can see a light that tells us the end of the tunnel is near.