Welcome to the World: Breakthrough for the week of March 18, 2020

We open our mouths and out flow words whose ancestries we do not even know. We are walking lexicons. In a single sentence of idle chatter we preserve Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse: we carry a museum inside our heads, each day we commemorate peoples of whom we have never heard. -Penelope Lively, writer (b. 17 Mar 1933)

I can’t think of anything new or illuminating to say about these plagued times we now live in. I look at empty shelves in the local supermarket, and believe that the plague is not so much this virus, as human terror of not having. I read a neighborhood message board, see people offering to help those who are home-bound or physically incapacitated, and believe that this virus may be what forest workers call a back-fire: a deliberate blaze which burns away that which our species and our beloved home planet will be well rid of.

In this moment, it is easy for me to believe in both stories of this virus. I’m not coughing. I can breathe. I have chosen to welcome my son’s visit from Japan, to hug him, to house him. I know of no one who is sick from this virus; and when I ask friends, they know no one. I experience this virus only on my computer screen.

I wonder if America is being not only brought into the real world, the real planet, but into empathy with our global kin. Those of you who know me well, can guess the story I carry in my heart and history: our species has done more damage than any other species, any maelstrom, any meteor. I imagine that the Earth has had enough of us.

You are welcome to write us how you are living with this new probability of being disappeared, of learning a language of impermanence so many of us seem to have forgotten; and of vanishing into our inexorable futures as sentient beings,



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