As we roll through what seems to be uncharted territory, I’m remembering that no territory is truly uncharted – the human race has a long history – it’s all about letting yourself read the charts.
I am a lover of novels, and I have been since I learned to read. Everything I know about the Napoleonic wars, about life on other planets, about escaping from the Nazis and immigrating from China, I know from books. It’s not first hand knowledge, but it’s often very deep wisdom.
Of all the closures we are looking at this week, the hardest is the closure of the library. (I have stuff that’s gonna be overdue next week – whaddamygonna due?)
Keeping with the philosophical maxim that the map is not the territory, having a map is still a great advantage over just flying by the instruments.
What to read?
Jose Saramago, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, has a novel called “Blindness” that describes a new illness falling over humanity with such speed and force that humanity’s clumsy attempts to understand and contain it are only a painful reflection of our blindness about our own nature. Spoiler alert – blindness is not a permanent condition.
Albert Camus’s classic “The Plague” is the one that most readers know; a city overwhelmed by an illness and the tight, sharp angles of society that punctuate the spread. Class, status, race, gender – viruses do not take these matters into account. Ethics may or may not save your life. It will determine how you walk towards your death.
But my favorite – ok, they are all favorites – is “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s the best reflection of how humanity just keeps at it, through the plagues and the bad government and the weather. Best of all, you can finish the last page and feel that – come what may – we are going to survive.
Right now, the community of Culver City seems to be doing a pretty brilliant job of pulling together to take care of each other. I hope in a few weeks, when it’s time for the next chapter, we can all feel equally good about how we got through.