Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Quote of the Day (Emily St. John Mandel, Anticipating a Civilization Gripped by a Pandemic)

“No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights. No more trains running under the surface of cities on the dazzling power of the electric third rail. No more cities.”— Canadian novelist and essayist Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (2014)

Two years ago this week, the New York metropolitan area prepared to shut down as COVID-19 spread.  Few people could have predicted the pandemic’s impact on American healthcare, business, technology, culture, politics—and, in the fissures it created among friends and family, even relationships.

We did not quite reach the nightmare that Emily St. John Mandel wrote in her novel Station Eleven. But, even as New York and other cities now prepare, tentatively, to loosen restrictions and “reopen,” who can say what may happen in the near future?

The COVID-19 variants Delta and Omicron should have taught people that, just as animals can evolve, so can viruses. 

But from the first, a hard core of Americans have engaged in successive forms of denial about the coronavirus: that it even exists, that it’s not as bad as others from the last decade or so, that it’s been confined to a certain geographic area, that social distancing, masks or even vaccines aren't needed to combat its spread, or that it could it couldn't damage one’s self or one’s family.

Pray that we have something like a return to the cherished sights and sounds of civilization celebrated in the passage starting this post. But above all, pray that neither COVID-19 nor any future disease surprises us again.

(The accompanying photo of Emily St. John Mandel was taken on Dec. 2, 2017, by librarie mollat.)

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