I’m an author at heart, and being an author means that, more often than not, I process my thoughts and feelings best when they’re put on the page. This post has nothing to do with my characters, my books, my plots, or my ideas. It has nothing to do with the world of Solendrea or the half dozen other worlds of my imagination. It is merely my ruminations on current events, and as such, I’ll forgive you if you choose to sit this post out. You won’t hurt my feelings.
Being a writer is, in large part, being a student of the human condition. As authors, we lift up the rocks and look in the dank and murky places for the things that make other people squirm. We confront the monster in the dark, tame him, and make him do our unruly bidding and in so doing, we better understand both the beast and ourselves.
What then becomes of us when we have to confront the monster in the dark not within the confines of the blank white page, but in living, breathing reality? That real monster has come in the form of a ruthless disease that has killed thousands and has the potential to indiscriminately kill thousands more. Ebola, once a shapeless threat by virtue of distance, is becoming a dark shadow that dogs the footsteps of the wary, the suspicious, and the paranoid.
Greater writers than I have explored the depths of the end of the world. In particular, Stephen King’s The Stand sticks out because of the similarities in the delivery vehicle of our doom. However, there are others, no less terrifying in their own right. We like stories about the end of the world, because we like to be scared, and because it felt far enough removed that it couldn’t happen for real. So we visit our post-apocalyptic wastelands in movies and television. We watch as actors skirt death and destruction at every turn and thrill to their survival for another week, another movie, another book.
It is important for all of us to remember, though, that the entertainment is worlds apart from the reality. Thousands of people are struggling for their lives and losing. It is difficult for us to fathom and it’s not our fault. Many of those who have died are simply outside our monkeysphere. We can’t process the impact of all those deaths because it’s not easy for us to process the impact that far out on our personal fringe.
To be honest, many of us don’t want to process that information. It is an unpleasant reality that we’d rather just ignore if we can.
But there may come a time when we can no longer ignore it. When the struggle becomes profoundly personal for us in ways that we can’t right now imagine. I hope that moment never comes. I hope that minds more brilliant than mine who are, even now, working in labs and in the field, find a way to beat the virus and put down the threat for good.
In the meantime, don’t panic. The best way you can protect yourself is by gilding yourself in the armor of facts. Eschew misinformation and rumor. Panic is a deadlier weapon than the virus can hope to be. Instead, hug your kids a little longer. Kiss your wife, or husband, or partner a few more times. Say I love you.
Because in the end, we’re all in this together.