I am driving to Little Rock today. I would rather not, but my wife has an appointment with her cardiologist and is scheduled for lab work, so I will. We’ll have lunch in the parking lot before she goes in for her appointments. She has already ordered our sandwiches from Panera Bread. A positive aspect of going to a medical office is the fact that everyone will be wearing masks. There will be no protestations (I surely hope) that masks are the work of Satan or that the requirement that people wear masks is an infringement on one’s rights to randomly infect passers-by with all manner of deadly viruses. People will willingly wear masks because they are decent human beings who respect the best advice of healthcare professionals. At least I hope those are the kinds of people we are apt to encounter at the medical office. And, I hope, at Panera Bread, where we will notify the staff by clicking a link provided to us via email that we are ready to have our sandwiches delivered to the car.
This is a different environment than we were used to six months ago. While we may not like it, I think we have to consider the similarities to another scenario. Consider this: you emerge, in the aftermath of a hurricane or a tornado, to see that the house you live in is no longer habitable; you don’t like the new environment, but you move on to another place where life can go on. You adapt. Same thing with masks and social distancing and different protocols for grocery shopping and dining out. You adapt. Unlike so many catastrophes that have befallen us in the past, this one knows no borders. There’s no escaping to a different place where the hurricane or tornado did not hit; no place escaped this catastrophe. So you adapt where you are. Or, if you are willfully stupid, you refuse to wear a mask and claim it is part of a massive hoax; you behave as if you are immune and cannot be a carrier and you watch as your children and your spouse and your parents die as a result of your “freedom tantrum.”
We may learn in six months or six years time that masks are not as helpful as healthcare professionals today believe them to be. Probably not, but maybe. So what? When we know more, we react accordingly. In the interim, we react by following the best advice they can give us, based on what they know today.
I feel very sad this morning. It’s not just that the mask-deniers are on my mind. I don’t know what it is; just a sense of hopelessness, that there is nothing I can do to retrieve the serenity that is regularly snatched away when I learn of more and more serious tears in the social fabric. I feel like the earth is rupturing beneath my feet and everything and everyone is in danger of collapsing into a bottomless pit below me. If I could just fall into a long, long, long dreamless sleep, maybe I would heal from this darkness. But I can’t. And, in a few hours, I’ll be happily on my way to Little Rock, with this overwhelming sadness long since forgotten. That’s the plan.