Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Atomic Bombs and Microbe Viruses

I've been listening to the podcast The Daily, which focuses on one news story (usually about 20 minutes) per day. I think it's created by NYT writers. Anyway, the content is always great and, as you might guess, lately it's been All Virus, All the Time.

Today, though, I listened to an episode from last week that was a short (8 minute) reprieve from virus talk and included writers reading aloud some of their favorite writers. One guy read this excerpt from C.S. Lewis's essay "On Living in an Atomic Age," which he wrote in 1940. I found it really moving--I got misty eyed in my car--and I'm still thinking about it.

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

- C. S. Lewis "On Living in an Atomic Age" from Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

I'll be working from home starting tomorrow. It would have been today, but my memory is the first thing compromised when I'm feeling stressed out and I went off and left 12 ounces of breast milk in the fridge here at work, so I came back in for the day. Also, my office is quiet and my house is... not. David and his dad are working on another big project putting in some decking to cover our back patio area, which means that he just lets Zuzu and Coco free range all day long. That's FINE for a few days of spring break, but it's not ideal for a month (more than a month???) that includes both of us trying to work remotely.

At any rate, the first thing we need to do is to pull ourselves together. For me, this means making a meal and snack plan like I do during the summer and creating a fairly regular routine for the kids in terms of "school." There are so many online resources. I think our plan is to try to do some math and reading in the morning and then let them pick something to "investigate" in the afternoon (science or social studies) and then maybe alternate doing art or music, by which I mean using art supplies we already have or singing along with Raffi. I am planning to keep it suuuuper simple. We don't usually do screen time on week days, but we'll obviously break that rule for online school stuff on the computer or educational games on the tablets. I'd still like to enforce the no TV-shows rule on weekdays but if I'm being realistic, that 4-5pm hour is likely to be show time.

(Except not LEGO Girls because their snotty attitudes can suck it. I wish there were a way to REMOVE shows from watching availability in streaming services. If anyone knows this secret, please tell me. Zuzu is highly influenced by what she watches and she imitates the characters in her play and in her real life, so if she's watching bratty characters she's acting like a brat. Shimmer and Shine might be annoying AF but at least they are kind and supportive of one another.)

I'm still torn about what to do about G going to her babysitter's house. On the one hand, my productivity will sink if she's home all day. She's not being exposed to anyone new, and the circle of people is pretty small. On the other hand, when you think about three kids, each with two parents, parents may still be going to work, it's easy to see how numbers grow exponentially. I have no idea who those other people might have been exposed to, and obviously babies aren't keeping their mucus to themselves. It's likely we'll keep her home, too.

And so we keep on--praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, facetiming friends and family, painting bookcases and playing board games. We have a box of wine and a pantry of canned goods and stacks of books (literally, since they are not currently on the bookcases). A microbe may break our bodies, but it need not dominate our minds.

1 comment: