And so it begins. And of course, the first place we read about it is on social media.
We hear about this one’s friend who gets it so can we send amusing gifs her way to cheer her up? We hear about a good friend’s aunt who was in the hospital but was OK, but who gave it to her son who had a surprisingly virulent case of it for a healthy guy in his mid-30s, and gave it to her husband who is just in the beginning phases. We hear from people who got sick who might have in fact had it but can never know because there were insufficient testing resources.
The mind starts playing tricks. You’ve been having a headache and nausea for more than a week… You went in to see your GP last week, and was told that it was probably a viral infection you caught from your brother who had the flu, but that your immune system is kicking its ass. And yet every day, usually at night, you get a bad headache, and think hoo boy here we go…. You start evaluating family members over the phone, Mom’s laugh sounds a little throaty, the tone of the articles Dad sent today sounds like he takes this a little more seriously. You make mental notes to call people, and of course forget to call them for two days at a time. You begin to notice the urge to cough, anticipating that this is the big one, but forget that you just ate through yet another tub of ice cream which probably tripled the size of your mucous membrane.
This is the one of the most extraordinary and unlikely moments in the entirety of American history – maybe the single most extraordinary. Once your kids go to bed, what you’re hearing now is the one thing that has not existed in American history since before the twentieth century: existential quiet. The idea that there is something going on somewhere else that’s worth seeing, or doing, that’s all gone now. There is only the now and the here, there only the experience of where we are at exactly this place and exactly this time, because tomorrow, we may no longer be anywhere at all. John the Apostle called it ‘Logos,’ Heidegger called it ‘being there.’ That moment when there is literally nothing but the thoughts of you reverberating against your skull, and out you can tune them no longer. These are the moments when revelations are made and come to, they are also the moments of our deepest agonies.
It is this existential quiet which every American has spent decade upon decade drowning out from their ears just as their parents did before them, and their parents before them, and their parents before them. There was always something else to do, something new to see and hear and taste and touch at The American Carnival: that unending festival that went on every single day of the twentieth century without a stop, exciting us through two world wars and a Great Depression, made more extensive and expensive with every new wave of immigration, excitement piled upon excitement until it long since was exponentially more exciting than any carnival the world has ever seen or assembled, so exciting that the most rebellious spirits in every country of the world all wanted to assemble right here so that they could do everything it was that they were told not to do elsewhere. And whether they created the best sights and sounds and thoughts the world had ever seen, they certainly created the most rebellious, the most exciting, the most intoxicating. The American Carnival was the topic of everything from Citizen Kane and The Great Gatsby to the reality show or shitcom you stumble on at 4 in the morning. The Simpsons and Walt Whitman and Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan all chronicled it in their different ways. And now, almost a hundred thirty years after the Chicago World’s Fair, it’s all over. In the span of a week, all it took to fold the tent was a microscopic organism that can’t be filmed, has nothing to say when you put a mic in front of it, needs no slogan to increase its sales, needs no bottom line to increase its profit.
….more tomorrow…..I’m not sure of where to take this yet….