When I was six years old, way back in the 80s, I remember how excited I was to be ordering books (with my mom’s help of course) from the Scholastic book catalog. It was like a smorgasbord of treats for young readers and one book in particular had caught my eye: The Curious Little Kitten. I remember waiting for that book to come in the mail and when the package finally came, tearing it open, and seeing a slender tome called Fraidy Cat along with a letter of apology explaining that the book I’d ordered was out of stock.
I never read Fraidy Cat. It’s still sitting somewhere on a basement bookshelf, I’m positive of it. I think I cried that day. Disappointment is always tough, but it’s even tougher when you know it has a human cause. Understocked shelves, misinformed catalogs, shipping delays; they’re all someone’s fault. Every time somebody says ‘we’re sorry, sir’ my reaction is to say ‘Good. I forgive you. Now fix it.’ That last part is usually the sticking point of course, and when the second ‘I’m sorry sir’ inevitably comes, I just can’t shake the feeling of offense that follows. I like to think that my occasional bouts of petulance did and still do come from a real sense of injustice. Certainly this crisis here could have been handled better. This thing was a sum of many bad decisions. Conservatives minimized, liberals catastrophized. Conservatives were foolish, liberals were scared. Everyone played to type perfectly, creating a fear state that foresight and wisdom could have prevented or made better.
The bottom line is, I just plain hate substitutions in life. I detest second best. The weak shadow of something that aught to be but isn’t just leaves a rotten taste in my mouth. People are expected to accept these things though. ‘Any old port in a storm’ we say, or ‘it’s better than nothing.’ Sometimes that assessment is spot on. If you’re starving, you’ll wisely eat a loaf of bread instead of holding out for pizza while stamping your foot. If a hurricane or a plague hits, you don’t send angry letters to the shuttered bars. On the other hand, to accept mediocrity at face value is to deny our humanity. Humans strive; we have to, it’s in our nature. And as much as adherents to certain ideologies would like to deny that progress is a good thing, they usually do so from behind a computer screen inside a comfortable house. Unless they recognize the irony in that, it’s not necessary to respect their position. So enough about them.
I suppose I might have (and some would say I should have) done such a thing right here on this blog. Accepted mediocrity as a ‘new normal’ I mean and just gone with it for the sake of offering digital comfort food. Heck, that’s what everybody else was doing. Meeting friends over Zoom, having virtual dates, and so on. I could have certainly made a ‘quarantine version’ of this blog and contributed to that way of being. But those things are lame. Mediocre. Things we intend to put in the past sooner rather than later. I don’t just hope this crisis ends, I insist that our leaders end it. Doctors said we’re on the virus’s timetable. Well, screw that shit.
It nauseates me when the supposed experts insist that thinking realistically means thinking pessimistically. Too often they’re content with being victims of statistics. It makes me doubly sick when people seem complicit with endless states of emergency without asking questions or demanding guarantees from those who declare them. Yes, of course when there’s a disaster like a plague we all have to batten down the hatches, show patience and take precautions. That doesn’t mean we have to take the gloom and doom scenarios proffered by every clove-smoking cynic in academia and the media as a new gospel. A new normal. The brave nurses on the frontlines of health care certainly didn’t give in and because of that they’re saving us. The state has now begun the inexorably slow process of reopening and people are starting to choose life over terror, all because humans did what humans do and actively fought back.
To put things simply, I didn’t publish entries for a while here for one reason: I did not feel comfortable contributing to a culture of disappointment. I thought it would be wrong to reinforce the disturbing way of thinking that emerged during this time in which we were collectively conditioned to settle for malaise and paranoia. I didn’t want this blog to be a reminder of the evening news; an echo of bad times. That’s not a comfort to me and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have inspired you a folks a lot either. Writing, like any art, has a duty to inspire, or at least attempt to.
I thought it would be better to wait until nature took its glacially slow but inevitable turn for the better, and to in the meantime focus on the basics like loving my family and growing my garden and reading my books until I was free to do this thing again the right way; the last thing I wanted it to become was a tacit acceptance of a world we don’t deserve. I wanted instead to use this blog as a platform to show people who are just starting to not have panic attacks when they leave the house that it’s actually OK to breathe again. I wanted this work to be an exercise in curiosity, not fear. In the immortal words of Bob from The Walking Dead: Nightmares end. They don’t end who you are.