I know it’s a strange thought, but I do believe that the virus behind our current pandemic is unbelievably elegant.
Beyond the sense of beauty or style, elegance is also defined as having the “quality of unusual effectiveness and simplicity.” In this vein, SARS-CoV-2 fits the bill.
By using such a delicate term, I in no way mean to diminish the intense wallop COVID-19 delivers on those victims who become seriously ill. My heart aches for the loss of the nearly 1.5 million people across the world who have died from this disease, and those with lasting complications.
Yet by being “furtive in transmission and fickle in impact,” the virus seems designed cleverly for the best chance of diffusion across the world.* We’ve had cities shut down, businesses strangulated, governments paralyzed, and mask discussions go rabid. All for a disease that is both feather and bullwhip. For those whom the disease devastates, it does so brutally and sometimes fatally; we’re also finding out that its impacts can be insidiously long-term. In contrast, for some, the disease does zilch or is nothing worse than a couple of days of an achy, flulike body.
The whole package direly worries officials around the world and at the same time, manages to not register on the Richter scale of fear for millions. Its very incongruity aids in its spread.
All the while, this virus has ingeniously and devilishly hit us Homo sapiens where it hurts the most — our connectedness to each other. Our communication is hampered as we try to talk from behind masks and plexiglass. Our ability to gather with loved ones, at a time it’s arguably needed most, is limited. We are social creatures, and this lack of connection is demoralizing. Across the world, we are feeling uncertain — about ourselves, our communities, our governments, our futures.
Yes, the novel coronavirus has divided us, struck deep at our connectedness. But I posit that it also paradoxically has the power to strengthen it.
By going through this extended period of deprivation, we are relearning the value of human contact. When we get the chance to look into somebody’s eye for comfort, courage, inspiration, understanding … we feel its immense power. When we allow ourselves to touch, we keenly experience the calming effect on our frazzled nervous systems. Any chance to laugh and break bread by a roaring fire is treasured. A hug from your buddy whom you haven’t seen in months, even with a mask and head averted, is made all the more sweet. The importance of personal contact has been underscored in this time of scarcity. We are not taking it for granted.
During the holidays, we focus on how important it is to support those in need. Philanthropic giving is at its height and stories of generosity reign. Read about the local warming center, and about a new program supporting the independence of the developmentally disabled. We give, reach out, and help because the holidays encourage us to act from a place of compassion and care.
This year, the coronavirus invites us to extend that support to ourselves, to the entirety of the world, to remember we are all connected, psychically if not physically at the moment. To remember that sense of interrelation gives life meaning. If we can hold on to this lesson, then the elegance of the coronavirus will truly be laid bare.
* I borrow the brilliant words of our writer Craig Rowe from his November piece outlining the trials for fitness centers in these times.