is the second coming coming

One thing I’m learning, I guess, is that all the post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk media I’ve devoured is essentially optimistic because there’s usually one moment, one break, one event, and then there’s a before and an after. Whereas in real life, it seems, tension can just build forever; things get worse and they get worse and they get worse and the air is never let out of the balloon, we never reach the saturation point, and there is no point where we get to let go of some of the old expectations and baggage. Instead we just get squeezed tighter and tighter and tighter, and we’re stuck in this mundane world, the world of jobs and office buildings, not survivors scavenging as we explore the endless plain.

I have been accused of romanticizing the post-apocalypse, and, well, guilty. But I don’t want nuclear war or for the virus to mutate and start infecting and killing more people. Nothing like that. But what I do want is some sign that we have reached a break, that events have forced us to face up to an old then and a new now, and that the tyranny of normal has been defeated at last. I am eager for that great break in the human mind even if the outcome of what comes next is chancy and unsettled and left for all of us to struggle over for the rest of my life. What this virus has taught me is the supreme durability of normal, the dogged survival of the mundane world, the near-impossibility of some new era in which all old expectations of civility and social norms will just extinguish or burn away….

you should mourn

You must socially distance yourself, and I am. It’s our duty in this moment. And it sucks, completely, but no one seems comfortable saying so.

Look, I have always understood the utter necessity of the measures we are taking, and I have followed the precautions recommended by experts from the beginning. I am 100% on board with the program and you should be too. I also am incredibly annoyed that this virus has become yet another excuse for people to engage in the only activity the internet enjoys, which is competitive righteousness. Everyone insists on being the only person who really, truly is down with the program. “I ALONE RECOGNIZE THE TRUE DEPTHS OF THIS PROBLEM! I AM THE LAST RESPONSIBLE MAN!” The sheer pomposity of it all.

And that has led to this atmosphere in which people are afraid to publicly admit their sadness and anger over all that they’re giving up. That’s deeply, deeply unhealthy. The first step in coping with loss is to recognize it, to understand the depths of your own pain.

Think of all that we’re giving up – concerts, museums, parties, festivals, drinks with friends, dates, football games, dinner with loved ones, travel, the presence of others. These things aren’t some trivial luxuries that only the privileged would mourn. They are the stuff of life. In a world that insists on replacing real pleasures with their sad virtual equivalents, these things are more vital than ever. We have been social distancing ourselves for decades – Uber to avoid the subway, Seamless to avoid restaurants, Skype to avoid face to face contact, podcasts and video game streaming to avoid real friendships, virtual reality to avoid real reality. This is the parasocial age, the age of the human facsimile. And now this. We have to acknowledge everything that we are losing, the things that make the human race human. We can’t do that if people treat acknowledging what we’ve lost as some betrayal of the need to look serious. And I’m so afraid that people are never going to come back, that they’ll get used to this new world and our last essential human connections with people we don’t know personally will be severed forever.

A couple weeks ago I lost one of my closest friends. It was a punch to the gut. And mutual friends and I said at the time that what we needed was to come together and mourn together, to memorialize him. Because the only way out is through; the only way to survive the pains of the world is to acknowledge them in their enormity. And now we can’t. We can’t bury our friend, thanks to this. And I’m so mad about it. I’m so mad. And you know what? I get to be mad. I am entitled to it. Just as I get to be mad that I might turn 40 alone in my apartment, that I may not travel again for years, that I won’t get to wander the halls of the Met anymore, that I will have essentially no ability to meet someone I might fall in love with, that I have no idea when I’ll next get to give my nieces a hug. I get to be mad about those things. And high school kids who’ll never go to graduation get to be mad, and the terminally ill who have to spend their last days indoors get to be mad, and so do people who just want to enjoy the spring in their local park. We all get to be mad.

The human cost of the disease and those it will kill is enormous. The cost of our prevention efforts are high as well. You’re losing something. You’re losing so much. So you should mourn. We’ve lost the world. Mourn for it.