Beginnings and Endings

A haiku reflection—stanzas of three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables—as the year we have labelled 2020 draws to a close—

why we measure time

is a mystery to me—

for time knows no bounds

beginning a year

or ending one at some point—

what changes for us?

the calendar is

nothing but a vain attempt

to measure our lives

but life is more than

mere beginnings and endings

to which we pay heed

life is a journey

from there to here, whence to hence,

uninterrupted

imposed beginnings

and endings do not change our

eventual route

they turn us perhaps

hither and yon on our way

to our destiny

for we are born, then

we die; from start to finish,

naught begins or ends

rather, life just flows

from this to that, to the next,

bearing us forward

when new year begins,

and old year ends, we don’t stop—

we simply move on

and so, it must be

that beginnings and endings

mean nothing at all

It’s Tolling for Them

COVID-19 is a killer, an indiscriminate killer.  And it is a determined despoiler.  Among those who fall victim to it, many who survive are assailed by debilitating after-effects that might last for the rest of their lives.

COVID-19 doesn’t care who you are, exalted or humble, although it targets most virulently, and disproportionately, those who are more vulnerable—the elderly, the frail, those with co-morbidities, and the economically-disadvantaged, especially those living in crowded conditions.

It doesn’t care about your religious or political affiliations, your gender or sexual identity, your ethnicity or colour, your marital status, your nationality.  COVID-19 is an equal-opportunity predator.  You might be the nicest person anyone has ever known, or the most vile, but that doesn’t matter to the virus.  You are nothing more than prey.

The virus is not a living thing.  Like all parasites, it relies on a living host to propagate.  And to achieve that end, it is a relentless invader, ruthless, uncaring, insensate—in short, a perfect killer.  The human immuno-suppressant system, in most cases, is no match for it.  Although the reasons are so far unclear, some people are infected but suffer no sickness; others are infected, become ill, then recover; and still others are infected, fall seriously ill, and succumb.  All of them, however, are spreaders of the virus at some point along the continuum.

There is no known cure for COVID-19.  The promised vaccines hold the hope that we may, at least temporarily, disrupt the link between infection and illness—although, for how long, no one yet knows.  Repeated vaccinations may be a fact of life going forward if we hope to protect ourselves from its ravages.

Up to now, the mitigation measures prescribed by various governments to fight the menace—masking, social-distancing, handwashing—have proven ineffective, not because they, themselves, are ineffectual, but because we have not assiduously adhered to them.  As it turns out, as a species, we are not the most dedicated warriors.

And, unfortunately, there exist among us the pro-hoaxers, the anti-maskers, and most recently, the anti-vaxxers, all of whom present a clear and present danger to the rest of us. They appear to adhere unwaveringly to their denials that COVID-19 is a worldwide pandemic, to their disavowals of science, to their claims that government edicts are an infringement on their God-given freedoms. They contradict the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology with their strident, pre-conceived opinions.

The problem is that they are relying on idiosyncratic belief systems, where science relies on immutable, though constantly-evolving, evidence.

In Canada, for example, the number of COVID-related deaths among the overall population nine months ago was inconsequential, fifty-three in a population of 37.6 million (although those deaths were immensely consequential to the families of those who died).  As of this writing, the number of deaths is exponentially higher, 14,000+ and rising.

In the United States, the number of COVID-related deaths in a population of 328.2 million was reported nine months ago at 493; today that number sits at almost 310,000, a wildly-exponential increase.  

And in both countries, these are only the deaths reported; the actual numbers are widely deemed to be much higher.

Even before the onslaught of COVID-19, I had never been seen as a noted risk-taker.  The risk-reward scales have, for me, invariably tilted to the safer side.  Although I am not an overly-cautious person, I have always preferred to rue a golden opportunity I might have missed, than to suffer a major blow as a result of a miscalculation.

Consequently, as you might expect, I have adhered as closely as possible to the mitigation measures set forth by the government, and have encouraged others to do so as well.  That being said, I do respect the right of others to determine their choices—but, only so far as those choices do not impinge upon my right to a safe existence.

Suppose, for example, that a gang of armed thugs was roaming through your neighbourhood, breaking into homes, raping and pillaging, claiming it was their right to do so.  And if you dare ask them why, they reply, “Because we can!”

I don’t know about you, but I’d be terrified.  And I would expect the authorities to put a stop to their depredations in order to protect the law-abiding citizenry.  No one in a free society should have to live in fear of scofflaws who carry on as if there are no consequences for lawless behaviour.

Increasingly, I feel the same way about the pro-hoaxers, the anti-maskers, and the anti-vaxxers whose actions threaten the rest of us.  Normally charitable toward others with whom I disagree, willing to listen to and consider their points of view, I nevertheless find I am increasingly hostile to these covidiots, who endanger, not only themselves, but potentially everyone with whom they come in contact.

It is difficult for me, I now find, not to wish them ill.

In my ruminations, I have affixed a name to COVID-19, a name with which you are probably familiar—Quasimodo, Q for short.  And I picture Q in a lonely bell-tower, pulling stolidly on a rope, sounding the solitary bell.  Hearing it, I wonder for whom that bell is tolling.

Regrettably, but undeniably, I realize I am beginning to hope it’s tolling for the disavowers.

Two Christmas Stories

Episode 6 in my series, Reading Out Loud, is ready for viewing, this time featuring two Christmas stories—one a short essay, the other a meaningful poem.

The essay was written some years back, the poem just a month or so ago, but the similarity in theme is quite stark. The episode is slightly more than 10 minutes in length, and I hope you will enjoy it.

Please feel free to share this post with anyone you think might be interested. And if you feel so inclined, leave a comment in the space below.