The view from the top of the Empire State Building in New York City, the present epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Digital Silence #4 - Overexposed
We stand facing a vast precipice, a shapeless expanse, dancing with prisms of possibility. At war with our flaws, we strive for perfection, each step crystalizing into the eternal echoes of our own choices. How futile the struggle to expose the facets of our own fate, yet we are compelled to have hope in the face of the unknown, to have faith that each step will find itself sound. For as we do not know what lies before, so too are we blind to the depths below. Take heart, for each step is made hand in hand, intertwined with one another, our fates are shared.

By now, dear reader, you are surely aware of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe. The impact of this event is presently unfolding, but I believe it is safe to say that it has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives. Financial markets around the world have been upended, recessions have set in from all sides, all nations. For the first time in my memory, political proceedings around the world have taken a back seat to global affairs. Social distancing has become the norm for interaction, and people sit in their homes, self-quarantined awaiting word of when it is safe to venture out again. Retirement plans have been destroyed, millions of jobs have evaporated, and lives have been lost. The danger of this pandemic, or any pandemic, was not unknown to us, the risk of global transmission in the modern day is well understood. Our brightest minds have warned us that the greatest threat to the world is a virus, not a war. How is it that this pandemic has caught us with our proverbial pants down? In my way of seeing things, the answer leads to and arises from the same question.

It is the question that I ponder in my own isolation as I lie on the sofa of our AirBnb in Dublin, waiting out the great shutdown of 2020. It is the question that lies before each and every one of us, in our everyday decisions, in our collective ignorance. I stare at the skylight in the ceiling, the day outside is bright and blue, but it is encroached upon by the bare and exposed wood of the ceilings frame. Cobwebs littered with termite waste dangle from the begrimed corners and crevices above me. As I stare at this evidence of neglect, I am confronted with a realization, a reflection of this question dancing in my mind. Why is it that we are so lazy to change our poor habits, even when we know they are to our detriment? So uncapable of holding the knowledge of the consequences of our decisions in our conscious awareness. Unable to allow the epiphany of our misdeeds to trickle down to our actions.

The ceilings reflection. Self-portrait.

Exchequer Street, Dublin.

Northwestern view from the Millennium Bridge, Dublin.

This pandemic was just beginning to set in as I began a planned seven-day trip back to the North American continent. I flew from Dublin to Los Angeles, then travelled through Mexico before journeying to New York City and finally back to Dublin. This trip was intense non-stop travel, and I was quite concerned about being stranded away from my family as each leg of my trip was only days ahead of the local outbreaks. In fact, we are stranded now for this very reason, but at least my daughter, my wife and I are together in Ireland. At the onset of this trip, I found myself certain that this Coronavirus outbreak was going to blow over in much the same fashion as did Ebola and SARS. However, by the time I reach New York, I know this is not to be the case. 

I walk the city streets with this eerie sensation that things are going to change, quickly, irreparably. This feeling as if I was an anthropologic spectator in ancient Rome, immersed in the bustling of a pinnacle society doomed to collapse under its own weight. A phrase keeps echoing through my mind, it is palpable, almost audible. Now will soon be a long time ago. The guiding light of our species has dimmed, choked out by the smog we ooze into every crevasse of our struggling world. Any uniting purpose that we adhered to as we dove headlong into the industrialization of the globe has been obscured in a sea of political degradation, racial infighting, fearmongering and institutionalized greed. The city rises all around me, glorious in its dazzling height. Yet in all of this splendor, now exposed, lies an illusion of endurance. We have created many immense and complicated constructs, financial markets, economic machinations, divisions of trade, demarcations of culture and yet, in all of this complexity meant to ensure our own security, we have neglected one of the most fundamental needs of all, each other. 

In our selfish pursuit to commodify others in the provision of our basic needs, we have neglected the humanity in our fellows and ultimately in ourselves. How ironic that the best effort in the ongoing pandemic is to further the social distance between us, to sustain it consciously. I do not wish to doom monger; however, we have created a world which is unsustainable, and by its very nature cannot continue indefinitely. I may be wrong about the seriousness of COVID-19, this pandemic is still unfolding. Societies around the world may quickly recover precisely to where they were before this pandemic, but where does that leave us? Pressing on in our unending endeavor to squeeze yet even more from our finite planet to serve our blind economic ambition? This pandemic is not the singular threat to humanity. If a global shutdown the likes of which have never been seen before cannot inspire us to change our ways for the better, then, pray tell, what can? What unspeakable calamity would be necessary to pull our collective heads from the sand, to look beyond our individual needs, beyond the fiscal year, beyond the generation and to the future; for our survival, for the betterment of our children and our children’s children?

Times Square March 11th, 2020. A broadcast about Seattle can be seen in the LED signs on the lower left of the frame.

Times Square March 11th, 2020.

I wish I could tell you that all of this doesn’t really make a difference for you, dear reader. That you can continue on, unphased, unchanging, secure. That some other hero will arise from among the masses and solve all of our problems for us, free of inconvenience. That god himself will descend among us and point us to the way of our salvation. That we are only one technological breakthrough away, one president, one prime minister, one referendum, one bill, one startup away from the solution. The reality is deeper than this, it has to do with our very nature, our need to survive, to consume, our want for satisfaction. I do not write this to present a solution, I do not presume to know a solution, only to say that a solution is needed, a drastic alteration of our collective modus operandi. That our problems are not of the sort which we can ignore and hope they go away. That the edge of survival, from which we have striven to distance ourselves for so long, is catching up with us. 

Now will soon be a long time ago. Hand in hand we bravely step forward, the time is upon us, and our history will be written by those who come after us. May our legacy be a testament to the strength of our spirit, the depth of our creativity and the brilliance of our ingenuity. 
The city through the trees, Central Park, New York City.

Times Square March 11th, 2020.

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