Do you remember those old medieval maps with the words “Here be dragons” on uncharted territories signifying unknown dangers, with appropriately fantastic illustrations of the beasts?
I’ve always prided myself on being a patient person. I patiently waited to heal when I was sick. I patiently built a great life for myself here in New York. I patiently awaited relationships to heal (some didn’t). I patiently went to work every day and diligently applied myself to the tasks at hand. I patiently worked at becoming a boxer - I boxed six times a week and have a mean left hook.
We’re always told that patience is a virtue. In England, we formed orderly queues. We had a “mustn’t grumble” attitude and answered the question “How do you do?” with an echoing and equally rhetorical “How do you do?” In America, Amazon Prime pooh-poohs patience. Same day delivery is de rigueur. If your pizza is a minute late, it’s on the house, and people will tell you “Let’s meet from three to four”, indicating that they don’t have time to dawdle after that. That now all seems in the past while we all patiently wait for the coronavirus to make its exit.
This is where dragons come in.
Mythical, larger-than-life monsters that breath out fire and had wings in the West, unlike their oriental counterparts. Did they ever exist? Did St George in fact really slay a dragon, physical or metaphorical? Where is the fabled, fabulous St George today, patron saint of England, Georgia (the country, not the state) and of course Beirut, as well as of soldiers, scouting and syphilis?
I recently saw a photo of a man in Lebanon leaning into a garbage dumpster foraging for food on my Facebook news feed. The virus has amplified economic inequality in every corner of this planet
We are getting so many mixed messages on when to reopen society (the act is often presented as a single event like flipping on a light switch), even though we are nowhere near completely flattening the science- and fact-based curve, let alone fully informed about the potential risks of ‘recovered’ and asymptomatic patients.
This morning I watched angry CEOs spew fire about how much money their companies were losing (without having to explicitly mention the concomitant hit to their bonuses) and how they wanted to stage all sorts of great events in Las Vegas. I listened incredulously as the mayor of that city volunteered her citizens as a control group in evaluating what happens when social distancing is lifted, while she failed to understand that in this case, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.
When we hear about the staggering number of new cases – not to mention the rising daily death toll – I wonder at what stage politicians’ economic concerns are starting to supersede the concerns about risks to our lives? Our lives. Yours and mine and our families.
Politicians meet (virtually) to discuss solutions, spewing words at press conferences that scarcely engender comfort. I understand the tremendous loss of jobs, the scrambling of lifestyles, the psychological turmoil, but if we’re looking for a reset to the past, economic normalcy will be elusive. Despite the relative buoyancy of the public markets, we’re going to be dealing with a lot of stark structural problems that have been highlighted and exacerbated by the virus and the lockdowns. In the United States alone – we have 26 million people out of work – not counting those who gave up on looking for a job months ago. Remember, this is in the country that according to Trump enjoyed “the greatest economic conditions of any nation in the history of mankind” (or some equally hyperbolic description). Even after we flatten the curve, a potential resurgence of the virus looms over the entire planet. No one really knows how, when or where we will be able to go back to our pre-corona lives, or if strictly speaking, that is even possible.
Even after we flatten the curve, a potential resurgence of the virus looms over the entire planet. No one really knows how, when or where we will be able to go back to our pre-corona lives
I recently saw a photo of a man in Lebanon leaning into a garbage dumpster foraging for food on my Facebook news feed. That may not be uncommon to New Yorkers, but real poverty-induced hunger is generally much rarer in the Middle East outside of war. The virus has amplified economic inequality in every corner of this planet.
I am reminded of Raphael’s famous painting based on the legend of St George taming and slaying a dragon that demanded human sacrifices. Corona has become that dragon. Until this deadly virus is tamed and slain, we will have to keep a safe distance from others. How can we reopen hair salons, shop, offices or restaurants when so many are contagious and others are on ventilators or dying silently alone? We’ll get some kind of reset button, but it won’t come overnight.
We have to be kind, generous, helpful, gracious and above all selfless. Humanity in its entirety must give and give back generously. You do not need me to remind you to give of yourselves. We all need to do everything we can to provide for our friends, neighbors, relatives, employees, and even strangers to the best of our capabilities. Remember that you are not alone in your pain. We are all in this together. Now more than ever, we are being tested in what I hope is the worst ordeal of our lives.
Our health is in the hands of doctors, scientists and underpaid health workers. Here in New York, we clap every evening at seven o’clock for those angels of mercy. Let’s not forget the cab drivers, supermarket workers, policemen, ambulance drivers, handymen... the list is endless. My boundless gratitude goes out to all those on the front lines.
This has taught us that with patience there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are the ones creating that light. It comes from within us.
We are not living in a medieval allegory, but simply trying to live our lives as best we can under unprecedented circumstances. Life is a fine line. Life is fragile. Be patient.