It is love that has brought me to Tacoma this weekend. To be sure, it is not my own love for anyone in particular, at least not of that kind, unless you consider phileo, or the desire to encourage and cheer on a friend, as being a sufficient motive for a trip such as this one. Rather, I found myself spending time at a wedding rehearsal this afternoon because a friend of mine is getting married and another friend of mine happens to be the best man. The friend of mine who is getting married is a widower who has two kids and several grandchildren (and even great-grandchildren) of his own, and he is marrying a widow who has several children and plenty of grandchildren of her own. Such matters are not uncommon in our times. People do not like to be alone at any age and even without the expectation of more children there is the joy in the company of others, no matter what is going on in the world outside. The existence of love and relationships is a sign of hope and optimism and if I am not the best when it comes to such matters I am certainly very willing to cheer on those who are more successful than I am in that area of life.
While I am spending time celebrating the joy and happiness of a friend, the world as a whole is going to pot. There is not much that we can do about this individually. For example, among the many supposed world-ending crises that show the hand of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is the Coronavirus, and although I do not consider myself to be anything close to an expert in such matters, I am intrigued at how the spread of cases and the virulence of the disease has caused panic to spread around the world to an extent that even someone as reclusive as I am must take notice of it eventually. Let us consider that the Dow Jones Industrial Index has shown its most calamitous drops since the Great Depression over the fear of a pandemic, and that an elementary school in nearby Lake Oswego has closed for the first couple days of next week on a presumed case of Coronavirus from someone who has not been in contact with anyone who has traveled overseas.
How would someone know? If we take the virus as a whole to have a latency period of two weeks or so before symptoms become obvious, not even considering the potential bi-phasic nature of the illness and its dodgy and potentially biological warfare origins, how many people does one interact with in two weeks? Even a reclusive person like myself has interacted with a lot of people over that time. Determining the spread of a disease like that, should one be cursed enough to deal with it, would be an immensely difficult matter to determine. I have traveled between the Portland area and Tacoma twice, stayed in numerous strange/unfamiliar places ranging from the hotel where I am now to the home of a friend of mine who had other people staying with him to the happy bride-to-be, whose house I stayed at for a night while my car was being fixed. I have hiked alone lonely and desolate roads on the way back from work when I had no wheels, gone to the library a couple of times and eaten out at various restaurants, to say nothing of the people I interacted with at work or while grocery shopping or going to church. In all of these places one could theoretically be exposed to someone who had gotten ill somehow. Having spread my share of flu and cold viruses around, I know how this can easily be done.
And yet, despite the fact that we are in the time of Coronavirus–may it be forgotten in the annals of history–people still travel for business or personal reasons. People still go out, shop and eat out and go to hotels and go to church and school and assemble together to celebrate the marriage of two mature people and seek the comfort and company of others. The knowledge that we are living under the potential threat of a pandemic does not stop us from celebrating the hope and optimism that come from relationships. No one at today’s wedding rehearsal was wearing one of those masks that are apparently out of stock in medical supply stores, and I do not expect anyone will be trying to protect themselves tomorrow for services or for the wedding afterward. We will go about our business and hope for the best and see what comes, perhaps talking or joking about what may or may not come to pass. For the moment at least, despite all the panic and fear, life goes on. People fall in love and get married, and other people cheer them on. We hope for years of good living ahead of us and the joy of relationships and intimacy, even with those who are near strangers. Long may such enjoyment last, for our lives would be immensely poorer, even such lives as my own, if the fear of illness prevented us from venturing out into a dangerous and hostile world.