I actually think about it all the time, but I don’t say anything. It’s not something you really say. I mean, unless you’re Archie Bunker.
But the thought does cross my mind …
So many people, from so many different parts of the world, have moved into my neighborhood over the past decade or so, I’ve wondered what kind of viruses or germs or whatever they’ve brought with them and what kind of an effect that might have on our little neck of the woods.
Now, before you rush to your computer or phone and start angrily pounding keys, labeling me a xenophobic racist, hear me out …
Any and every time people from different parts of the world start getting together, one group of them introduces the other group to unseen little microbes they’ve never experienced. And it’s often a shock to the systems of one group or the other.
The white Europeans famously brought Smallpox to the Americas and it wiped out large groups of people. Even during the American Civil War, country kids who hadn’t been around a lot of people in their lives, were suddenly smashed against legions of humans from everywhere in the country. And all kinds of things ran rampant among the men; malaria, flu, scurvy, common colds, on and on it went. Obviously Malaria and Scurvy are more about nutrition and water supplies than herd immunity. Still, mixing people together, who aren’t used to being mixed together, always has consequences. Always.
Where I’ve lived, for the past decade, we’ve been opening different headquarters for different industries; health care, auto manufacturers, etc. And so, we’ve had an influx of people from China and Japan and India and several other places, migrating to our little map dot. Personally, I love it. I like smooshing all the races together. I’ve done it in my own home – Mexican wife, Chinese daughter, smart-ass son.
I’m not big on pure bred anything. I’m a mutt. I like mutts.
But we have also had all kinds of strange little flu bugs and stomach bugs and weird coughs that won’t go away and all manner of ailments that have surged through our county, for years, now. And it has always made me wonder where this or that may have originated. Who knows what my daughter brought home from China, that has been dormant for years? Who knows what I brought home from China? Who knows what I took to China?
The point is, we make these choices in life. We decide to go outside and breathe the air and mingle with our fellow humans and eat food at a restaurant and touch things in a mall others have touched. We go get coffee and put our lips on cups someone touched to get them out of the box and the plastic. And having worked in restaurants, I can promise you someone sneezed back there. Someone coughed. Someone scratched his or her ear and then opened your soy milk.
Sorry to break it to you, but any plate of food or cup of fluid you consume, anyplace other than your own home, is being touched by someone you don’t know. Some of them have a cold and don’t yet know it. Some have the flu and don’t yet have symptoms. Some have Mono. Some have Herpes.
If you could see what’s floating in the air you’re breathing, it would drive you into a panic.
If you could see the germ ecosystem inhabiting every single person you come in contact with, it would make you stay in the shower all day. But then if you could see what’s living in the water washing over you, you would dry off, huddle in the corner and live in the fetal position. But don’t even get me started on corners and fetusus.
When I was a kid, my mother and another mother put my brother and I with the other mother’s boys for a few days, so we would all get Chicken Pox at the same time. I guess they did that in the olden days (as my son calls it). All we knew is that we were having a sleepover. Then, all of a sudden, we were all itchy and red. And then…it all went away.
And guess what? I can’t get the Chicken Pox anymore for the rest of my life. I can walk in a room full of kids with Chicken Pox and I’ll be okay. I already fought it and beat it.
These days, instead of throwing kids together to get sick, we immunize for every single thing we can think of. But even after all our state ordered vaccines, something shows up we haven’t seen before. And we find ourselves putting kids with 43 inoculations and 17 seasonal flu shots…in quarantine. Because there’s a germ out there we haven’t accounted for yet.
I hear all the concerned Karens out there, screaming, “what’s the point of this?!?!”
My point is that if we are going to live in a free society, we will never be able to account for everything. We bake the risk of mobility into our lives. And while I am not arguing AT ALL with some extra safety measures during this time of fact finding and figuring out what the hell is going on. And while I am heart-broken by any news of even ONE death or serious illness, there comes a time when we have to take a deep breath (full of contaminated air) and walk out the front door into life again.
We can only live in this bubble for so long. Then we are ceasing to live at all.
Howard Hughes was a legend by the time he was in his 20’s. He was a real estate tycoon, movie producer and director, record setting pilot, an inventor, a philanthropist, a bone fide 20th century innovator, the richest man in the world, and a pretty damn good golfer. Howard was in life. He was a mover and a shaker and he made a difference on the planet.
His romantic conquests were legendary. And it is believed that he contracted Syphilis as a result of them (although there are those who dispute this claim). What cannot be disputed is that Howard Hughes went from interacting with the world, to completely distancing from it. His Obsessive Compulsive Disorder overtook him later in his life, and he went from washing his hands a hundred times a day, to not wanting clothes to touch his body and not wanting food to enter his mouth.
He became so obsessed with the germs around him, that he descended into madness and finally died at 30 thousand feet, in a private room, aboard a jet, headed for a medical facility. He weighed 90 pounds and hadn’t cut his hair or fingernails in years.
His obsession ultimately became his undoing.
We shouldn’t put our most vulnerable in harm’s way. We should practice good hygiene. We should play smart defense when some new virus shows up.
But at some point we have to factor it in…and walk back outside…and get back to work.
We cannot allow our fear to turn us into the national equivalent of Howard Hughes. What more could that man have given the world if he could’ve simply maintained balance? What great accomplishments were thwarted because a brilliant mind was more worried about the viral threats that surrounded him than the possibilities ahead of him?
Some of us are getting sick. And some of us are dying. And a lot of us are getting well. And many of us are sick while showing no symptoms at all. And we are learning as we go. And guess what? After this particular thing has run its course, another one will be right behind it.
But let’s find an off-ramp for the national talks shows being produced from home. Let’s be done with Facebook only concerts. Let’s not fear scratching our faces again. Let’s find a way back into our lives and back into interaction with others.
There are simply too many possibilities out there and too many people we need to get to know, to just be worried about their germs.
Suicides are up. Domestic abuse is up. Depression is up. We are out of balance. In trying not to overwhelm the medical systems by staying home and taking government money, we’ve overwhelmed the government money systems. In trying not to overwhelm the supply chains, we’ve overwhelmed the supply chains. In trying not to spread a virus, we’ve shut down education and travel and commerce and even worship.
Let’s not re-make our lives in a bubble.
Be smart? Yes. Be obsessed? No.
Let’s find a way back outside, into the sea of germs again. Or one germ will have beaten us in almost every way.
PS – My apologies to anyone named Karen. I meant no disrespect.
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