Weltschmerz: Some thoughts on the current state affairs

In this time of COVID-19 I am writing little. I’ve been wanting to record my evolving response to this exceptional time but the act of simply keeping up with my own thoughts, or rather, slowing them down long enough to get them on the page seems a monumental task. My feelings are mixed. Suspended anxiety. With every passing day, the number of infections and death counts rise and the world is suddenly filled with armchair epidemiologists pontificating on what local, national and international scientists, health officials and politicians are doing, or more often, have failed to do. Hindsight isn’t even 20/20 at this stage of the game. That analysis will not be possible for a long time and, even then, no one-size-fits-all solution will magically become clear—differences in circumstances are too great, inequities in health, wealth and access to basic services are even greater, both between and within nations. But in the meantime, greed, selfishness, and racism will only add to the cost. And deepen the despair.

But, on the bright side, the world is quieter, and the air cleaner than it has been in a long time. Mother Nature taking her pound of flesh to remind us of the cost our activity exacts on this planet? I wonder what lessons, if any, will stick with us.

However, not all my concerns are so grand and worldly. I am human. My fears also lie close to home. I worry about my daughter’s safety at the computer shop where she works—an apparently essential service that has reduced hours but, at last report, not instituted safety measures—and because she lives across town I cannot even see her. Despite our challenges, I am grateful to have my son at home. I would not want to be alone right now. But I am otherwise inclined to isolate these days—I  find it hard to find the energy to write an email, make a phone call or send a message. Everything seems to take so much energy. Fortunately I can still get out and walk and editing, or writing rejection letters, occupies a lot of time. Somewhere people are finding it possible to read and write and fill my inbox with their offerings.

But not me.

Most strangely I spend a lot of time thinking about mortality—well, under the circumstances I suppose that’s not too strange—but since surviving a pulmonary embolism and cardiac arrest five years ago I’ve not known what to do with that experience. I have no memory of the event. There were no angels or bright lights, only the near miraculous sequence of coincidences that allowed my son to hear me moaning from his room downstairs, find me, call the paramedics, and start CPR. For some reason coming so close to death did not fill me with a renewed sense of purpose. I have, in the years since, struggled with suicidal ideation and, in anger and frustration, wondered why I had the misfortune to be saved. Now, faced with an invisible force that holds both existential and real threat, even if I have none of the significant risk factors apart from age, I am aware that I don’t want to die. I don’t even want to get sick with the kind of flu and respiratory symptoms many who suffer at home endure.

It’s funny how we take calculated risks—board an airplane, travel to foreign countries, drive a car, hike up a mountain—weighing the rewards worth the potential costs. But this virus is different, even if I have so many advantages on my side. I think about it all the same. The stirrings of a possible cold or allergy heighten the senses; body aches and malaise have me reaching for the thermometer.

This time of distancing forces one inward. The real test, I suppose, will be to continue to look outward, beyond our homes, our communities, and our countries. And to try to believe. Whatever that means.

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

6 thoughts on “Weltschmerz: Some thoughts on the current state affairs”

  1. I find it hard to get my head round all this, tbh – I’m avoiding the news mostly as it’s not good for my mental state (and hearing Mr. Kaggsy relay snippets is enough) and I filter social media. But most of the commentary seems pointless really – we don’t know where this will go and all we can do is hunker down and stay safe. My children are all 200 miles away, which is difficult, but they’re close to each other which is something. I’m glad you have your son with you and somewhere to walk – small pleasures as they say. Take care. x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Take care, Joe. It is a very strange time. I am very grateful that my partner, who is still based in London, as here with me on holiday when they closed the borders. So that means we are in lockdown together and he’s now applying for a spousal visa so he can make the move permanent (and legal). This was something we were going to do at a later date, but events have moved things forward. We are both fortunate to be able to work remotely, albeit i am doing (Australian) day shift and he’s doing a (London) night shift. But I am very happy he’s here. Not sure I could have coped with lockdown alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There was a quotation in the NYT this weekend which I thought perfect, in an article about writers’ comments on “Plague Season”, gathered by Dwight Garner: “Hope is a kind of rigor. Despair is sugar.” (From Aravind Adiga’s “Amnesty”) Reading this newspaper on Sundays is a new ritual (and a splurge) for me this year, but I have found it an unexpected balm as it seems to be opening “new” avenues to the world beyond the walls I inhabit currently, just when these walls might seem to be moving inwards, without additional and deliberate efforts. Keep on, keeping on, J!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. My mother was from NYC, and I grew up with the Sunday NYTimes arriving tattered in the mail a week or so late. I splurge on a digital subscription which started for the Books section though now I probably appreciate the international coverage and photo essays more. Stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

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