Now that we’re a few weeks into the state-mandated shelter-in-place order, I think the novelty of the circumstances has begun to wear off for most of us. In those first few days, I believe the weary workers of our modern society viewed it as a reprieve from the mundane repetition of modernity.
It was a chance for some to catch up on rest. For others to clean the house, plow through stockpiled emails, or perhaps spend some precious time with your significant other.
But time waits for no man and as the clock ticked, our reality didn’t change, but our perceptions of it did. What many may have perceived as “a quick break” has transformed into “a faceless unending terror too small to be personified and categorize but too haunting to ignore.”
As if death wasn’t enough to fear, our very way of life is threatened with the plausible notion that the end of it’s reign is not in sight but is in reality, farther afield from which our financial savings or sanity can sustain us towards. Despite how relatively well-equipped we as Homo Sapiens are to accept the existence of an adverse situation and to dedicate our minds towards surviving it, we aren’t really built for this kind of threat.
When threats loomed in generations past, it was in the form of a hostile tribe or in a pack of wolves. It was real, it was tangible, and it had a face. The fact that this threat had a physical presence in the 3-dimensional reality we occupy made it easier for our caveman brains to process. Our brains could know for certain when the threat was present and more importantly, when it did not. It was an on-and-off switch of sorts and that switch is what allowed our minds to ease.
The very nature of the virus, in that it is infinitesimally small and unidentifiable is exactly what makes it uniformly pervasive in the minds of every human on the planet. It has no face, it’s presence or lack thereof simply can not be identified by the human body and thus our minds justifiably assume the worst, that is is there. That it is always there haunting us. Like an unwelcome guest sitting on our patio, in our car, in our grocery store cart.
It will never announce it’s presence and yet it stalks us every second of every day like the serial killer it is. So thus, our minds are unable to find a reprieve from the terror. We are, like the great cities of Europe in the middle of the 20th century, under occupation.
Our prehistoric ancestors, unlike us, had the luxury of distinguishable periods of safety and strife. Of calm and chaos. Of peace and war. Between those periods, years ago, often lied an event which separated the two. A battle, a truce, a killing, a significant event that sent enough neurons through their hemispherical lobes to signal, “it’s over.”
There’s likely not a human on this planet that doesn’t wish to experience that signal, that sense of relief. We dream, we fantasize about one day flipping that threat recognition software of ours to “off.” One day, we all will. It likely won’t for all of us at the same moment but it will one day arrive.
In the interim, all we’re left with is our duty to survey our modern territories, to protect our kin, and of course, guard our sanity. The threat switch is stuck to “on” for now for each of us. That “on/off” switch has a name and it’s name is fear. Fear, however, is not the enemy, fear is useful, fear keeps us alive.
We all are learning how to live with the existence of that fear in a unending state, some better than others but it’s an altered state of existence which we must all adapt to and one day no longer need.
One day, we will all eventually and collectively find that off switch, we just have to believe it.