We are now participants in a gigantic experiment: What happens in modern society when social interactions are reduced to a minimum? Already my favorite coffee shop here in Santa Fe is on the verge of going out of business. Most small businesses cannot stand an economic hit for long; fixed expenses kill them. I just returned from my locally owned grocery store; the store was empty as were the shelves. Virtually all schools, colleges, and universities, centers for breeding flu, are closed. Small liberal arts colleges, economically stressed for a decade, are no longer able to recruit students; with revues suddenly or soon to be gone for many, the Grim Reaper is on the doorstep, sharping his scythe.
The office, the cappuccino in the afternoon, or the beer on the way home is a way many of us escape the craziness of domestic life. Now with spouses, partners, and children forced together 24/7 in a domestic pressure cooker, physical and verbal abuse will surely increase.
I live on three acres of land. Every morning the sun illuminates the greenbelt behind my house and the distant Jemez Mountains in the west. With the sunrise, my soul acknowledges how great it is to be alive. I have no idea how citizens in New York, Chicago, or East LA will fare in the Covid-19 Experiment.
Forget about Trump, Pence, Pelosi, and Schumer; the people we must thankfully recognize are those on the ground, doctors, paramedics, and nurses. My granddaughter is on the frontline in Stowe, Vermont. She is a physician’s assistant helping to test patients for covid-19 infection in a parking lot. My granddaughter is a courageous young woman putting her well-being on the line for others, not like our self-centered and inept political leaders.
Four weeks ago, my wife and I were enjoying an incredibly good meal at Geronimo’s with two dear friends. The four of us laughed, recalled past events, and enjoyed a true and lasting friendship, one of the great gifts to humanity. The four of us left the restaurant happy and believed that life would continue as usual, of course, not without unexpected deaths or unanticipated pregnancies. Like every member of our species, we assumed the future is a straight-line projection of the present, even though we knew better: Life is repeatedly disrupted by unanticipated events, the most recent before the covid-19, the Great Recession of 2008.
Yet, we intensely desire to control our lives, to bend the world to our wills, and to believe that we really know what we are doing. Life is scary. Mo
st physicists I know adhere to a Newtonian clockwork universe that obeys precise, rigid mathematical laws that determine its evolution. In such a universe, free will is impossible: “Every decision is a thoroughly mechanical process, the outcome of which is completely determined by the results of prior mechanical processes.” (See illustration.) Even the great Albert Einstein believed in such a metaphysical comfort.
We humans live in an uncertain, frightening world, where the future is not predictable, where we cannot grasp the immediate events around us with certainty, but we possess exhilarating freedom that I, for one, would not give up for any metaphysical comfort.
Beginning with Iraq War II, most Americans have seen dramatized “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” The plan to stop the spread of covid-19 by mitigation, by social distancing, is undoubtedly excellent; however, other important consequences of the Covid-19 Experiment are unknown.
Please use the comment box below to tell all of us about your experiences, thoughts, and observations about participating in this gigantic social experiment.
As always, peace.