What’s love got to do…got to do with it?
This damned virus
So now we come to it. We’re in over our heads with this damned coronavirus. Coronaviruses aren’t new; they’ve been around for as long as Betty White has. It’s just that this new one, to which we’ve ascribed the cool-sounding moniker, “Covid19”, is anything but cool, and is in fact a cold-blooded killer. Just think of it: cancer can take several weeks, months, or a year to kill. But no, some friendly folks in Wuhan decided to cook up a super-virus that can wipe out a human in 14 days or less. Not even listening to Michael Bolton can kill you that fast.
This is not going to be one of my funnier blogs. The issue is too dire. Sure, I’ll try to lighten it up with some levity, but a force has taken over our planet that is a darkening, threatening cloud. Remember 9/11? I will never forget seeing videos of the giant ash clouds barreling down the street. One particular home video showed the view from inside a shop looking out onto the street through giant glass windows, and suddenly, from the left, all light was blotted out as a massive ash cloud cascaded in and obliterated all peace. With 9/11, at least you could see the cloud coming. We’re fighting an enemy we can’t even see now, and can barely detect. It’s unfair, much like how my midsection keeps expanding due to quarantine-induced inactivity.
We’ve all spent the past few weeks in solitary confinement, home quarantine, and social distancing, going a bit stir crazy. We’re cabin-fever prairie dogs, occasionally peeking out of our holes to see the body count rise. What does that kind of thing do to our sense of community? It erodes it and drives us mad as community is subtracted from our lives and replaced with a synthetic online replica of it. Why, just the other day I saw a voice talent on the news, confined in a straight jacket and being ushered out to a police car. Their hair was all disheveled, they were dribbling mindlessly and babbling on about the Coming Voiceover Apocalypse. But hey – at least they sounded like Don LeFontaine when they said it. “In a world where a virus reigned supreme…one vaccine rose above it all…”
Speaking of staying sane, why, when the chips are down, do people always go completely bonkers, take their clothes off and run down the highway naked? We see such reports and wonder “Why are they always naked???” Like these people. Or this guy. Or this woman. And oh look! I’m providing links to naked people. Enter your credit number now.
This is why I always wear clothes. I wear clothes to stay sane, and not get arrested. The more clothes I wear, the saner I am. See? That’s me over there in the goose-down parka zipped up to my throat, with hip-waders, four sweaters, eight socks and seventeen pairs of underwear. Trust me, they’re there, and I’m sane.
But in all of this naked craziness and crazy nakedness, people are hurting and dying out there. So perhaps this is Earth’s clarion call for us to wake up and love each other again. It’s either that, or this is its way of clearing out all the Amway distributors. At the time of this publishing, according to the Center for Systems Science & Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, there are 737,929 infected globally, and 35,019 people dead. By now, even Betty White could be dead. And I don’t want to live in a world without Betty White. So we need to reach out (from six feet away) and touch someone (with gloves), as the old AT&T commercial urged.
We need to love people, while they’re still with us.
What's Love Got To Do With It?
Tina Turner said it best, didn’t she? In 1984, her smash hit, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”, was playing on radio stations and elevators everywhere. She really did say it best. Actually, she questioned it best, because, as my 4th grade teacher Mr. Mafli stressed, anything that ends with a question mark is of course a posit, or query. For myself, I find it positively querious. Sorry, I’m a Dada - so expect some corny Dada jokes here.
On the “Dada” note, let’s talk about my kiddo for a second. Brennan, anytime he’s in trouble, says “I love you” to me. Call me crazy, but I suspect this four-year-old has already mastered the art of manipulation. He’s essentially misbehaving, and he knows it, so he’s taken to “conditioning me” before the awful judgment falls, so that there might be mercy. When he:
- gets peanut butter on his fingers and wipes it on his T-Shirt while I’m not looking, he says “I love you.”
- takes a toy away from his baby brother when we’re not looking, he says “I love you.”
- pulls Macy the dog’s tail when we’re not looking, he says “I love you.”
- steals the neighbor’s car and goes gallivanting with his friends on a booze-induced night of raucous partying when we weren’t looking, he says “I love you.”
At some point it just comes down to bad parenting, so we’ve begun to actually start looking at him, and now peanut butter is outlawed in our home, along with stealing neighbor cars (it wasn’t outlawed before, because, you know, reasons).
Does Brennan understand love? I think so. But he also understands how to use it to his advantage. And that is not what we need as a society these days. We need to turn on some turbo-love. We need proactive love. We need genuine love.
I was recently locked in my small studio with another man for 4.5 hours. It got steamy and sweaty in there and I had to take off my shirt. Oh - allow me to clarify: this was a directed session – directed sessions can sometimes be difficult! – where he was on Skype in California and he was having me say voiceover lines for a video game. Nothing as saucy as what you might have just conjured up in your cranium. Oh look, I’m talking about naked people again. Enter your credit card number here.
But for me, it was love in there. Adam is a fun client who I’ve enjoyed every minute of working with on a massive video game project. I don’t know him all that well, but I can reasonably say that I love him, in the sense that I can say “Man I love that guy”, however casually. He’s a fun guy, he made it an enjoyable experience, and has an exceptional sense of humor to pass the time. I care for him and wish him well in this coronavirus crisis. I mean that.
I’m going to introduce a new term to you, one that I only recently learned myself: solitarity. It’s the act of being unified from afar. Loving each other from a distance. Ensuring our mutual survival while still affirming our sense of mutual community with one another. After all, we’re all in this together, like a big can of sardines, but evenly spaced six feet apart. By the way, may I say that you look delicious covered in tomato sauce.
How do we practice solitarity? I’ll show you. Maybe Tina Turner didn't have it right after all. Love has everything to do it. I think, in actuality, The Beatles had it right.
There are memes travelling around the internet now that say “six feet apart, or six feet under.” Wow. Can’t put it more plainly than that. As stated on Vasquez’ armor in the 1986 movie Aliens, “El riesgo siempre vive.” The risk lives forever. The risk is real.
Right now, we can’t really sit around a campfire and sing kumbayah and roast marshmallows together, lest, God forbid, somebody in China sneezes, a nearby butterfly flaps its wings, the wind surges as a result, a gust barrels across the Pacific ocean and then comes blows up from the sea while we’re singing, and ushers those viral droplets right into our own lungs, and now we’ve got it too. It’s Chaos Theory lived out.
So what’s to be done? How do we stand six feet apart in solitarity with our brothers and sisters, family, friends, and colleagues? Well, we can do online campfires of a sort.
We can frequently say that we love each other. We can be real, transparent and vulnerable with our feelings. We can carpe dium, reach out and connect. We can hug tightly those we’re trapped at home with. We can gaze deeply upon our children. Our spouses. Our siblings. Those we’re confined with. Or those we know that we love deep down, but haven’t told in a while, and don’t want to because Marsha Marsha Marsha.
Reading the news over and over can paint a grim and bleak picture. Hitting F5 and watching numbers jump does nothing for our sense of peace, as if we expected that we could limit the increase through our own hope and sheer willpower. We watch maps of statistics and see them turn redder with each passing hour. We can project into the future and wonder if we’re going to lose someone dear to us. If we’re going to epitomize I Am Legend, Outbreak, Contagion or 28 Days Later. We can spend so much time thinking about it that we can have that thousand-yard stare - even while our loved ones are passing right in front of us. In some cases, the notion of actually contracting COVID-19 might seriously be less worrisome than the pressing worry about contracting it. Knowledge, as they say, is power.
We live in a different world now. We’re hyper-concerned about germs. Most of us have turned into Monk, or Dr. Kevin Casey in Scrubs. Just yesterday I received a package from Amazon on the front doorstep. I wiped down the doorbell, I wiped down the Amazon Prime box, let it sit for a bit, I opened it and sprayed it with Lysol, and let it sit for a bit. The package? Disposable antibacterial gloves, for crying out loud. Then I washed my hands. It’s that level of paranoia. And as there are so many out there just itching to be offended about something these days, you can’t just impose martial law and put the whole country on lockdown or the constitutional lawsuits will come out in full force. Convenience over survival, I guess. That only compounds the problem exponentially.
You wouldn’t know this because we’ve been social distancing, or you’ve simply never been to our home. But they recently removed all the trees at the end of our cul-de-sac…it’s now completely open. Our once-secluded haven that ended in a massive forest of trees now allows a stark view all the way out across the Puget Sound to the Cascade mountains. Beautiful at sunset, sure, but now our little sanctity has been removed and there’s this unshakable feeling of vulnerability. Those trees shielded us. We’re nakedly visible now, since someone wanted to take down our shield and put up new houses instead. There’s a subtle undercurrent of fear when the protective measures around us are eroded – or bulldozed – away.
But we can conquer fear with prudence. We conquer fear with love. We can reach out and connect by:
- Sacrificing our pride in the name of restoring relationships
- Offering truces
- Giving of ourselves
- No longer withholding
- Encouraging others with words of affirmation
- Restoring relationships
- And of course, loving people.
Take that, Tina Turner. One day we’ll all sit back and laugh at old grief, and know that we lived to tell about living through hell. One day this will be behind us, and love will still be right there with us. Perhaps 100,000 or more of us won’t be still with us, but love will, and we can choose what we do with that love: hold back, or pour out freely.
This blog wasn’t supposed to be so serious. But I find myself looking at my 4-year-old and welling up. I find myself looking at my 9-month-old and choking up. I find myself looking at my wife and wondering if I’m going to lose her. Or, if any of them are going to lose me. I worry about my overweight physique. I worry about my respiratory system given that I had asthma as a child. I…just…worry…
We’re in a climate pulsating with fear and worry. But that doesn’t mean we need to be grief-sponges. We can intentionally, triumphantly choose to emerge from it, to reach into the future, to boldly project ourselves there, past this, and see hope beyond fear…victory over death…love beyond grief. Life doesn’t stop just because of a virus. Life, and love, go on.
I’m Joshua Alexander, and I love you. And I pray Psalm 3:3 over you, me, my family, and yours: “But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” May you be a shield around us, Lord. May you lift our head high.
Stop wiping peanut butter on your shirt and saying that you love me, manipulatively. Say it like you mean it, and do it with your best damn-the-torpedoes approach. The market will crash. The Recession will come. The numbers will climb. We'll give each other a wide berth. We won't shake hands for a while. Hospitals will be overrun. States' cries for help will be deafening. Individuals may run out of money. Food may become scarce. We've already seen toilet paper vanish off the shelves with a 6-week backlog. Funeral-less families will mourn for lack of a proper burial. It's going to be awful. It's our duty to love people through all of this.
So that's it. Either start telling people that you love them, or I’m running down the highway naked. Enter your credit card number here.
By the way, these people are the epitome of love:
HEY. WAIT JUST A S.E.C.!
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