I normally would not take such a risk, not thinking so much for my own well-being, but the lives of others who could be compromised, if I were to contract the virus and pass it to someone. But here I was, ready to risk it all for those I love and…myself.
Both my parents turned 75 this year and are facing some age-related challenges. My normally robust father has run up against some serious health issues, and I wanted so badly to be with them and help them. Of course, I also desired to see friends and other family members.
There is no self-pity here; I know how lucky I am in this era. My life has been affected relatively little. I did not lose my business and although I do have friends and family who had contracted the virus, so far none of them paid with their lives. I have not only been able to evade the virus so far, but I have lived a relatively normal life judging by this new era’s standard of abnormalities.
A Canceled Flight
A few weeks ago, I found out that my flight from Copenhagen, Denmark to Buffalo, New York via Washington DC had been canceled. Although living in Sweden is enchanting, as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz reminds us: there’s no place like home.
I try to get back once a year to my little corner of New York State to reconnect. It’s not quite as easy as clicking my heels together but just knowing that I can be back home in less than a day, makes everything here in Europe a bit cozier. This cancellation was a sober reminder that we live in a different reality.
Like so many others, I naively thought it would be over by now. As much as I hoped that reality would somehow bend to my plans, I came to realize how pervasive this all is and how little my plans mean in the grand scheme.
Many times I questioned myself about following through on a ticket that I bought riding on a wave of optimism during a generally pessimistic period in April. Surely things would be figured out enough by August as the experts mostly predicted that the spread would greatly abate during the summer. My canceled flight is another reminder that life is never predictable. But it seems to be growing more unpredictable by the day.
Covid-19 Cancellations in Sweden
Like the rest of the world, I am getting used to cancelations. After having my first comedy tour canceled, with a group of relatives who were coming to visit me in Sweden, indefinitely postponed, and a number of other lesser life events dead or on ice, I have learned the hard way.
But seeing the numbers, hearing the stories, and being aware that people who I admire and whose art has touched my life, like John Prine, have lost theirs to this nasty disease is rather sobering. I realize that this is a time when we all must set aside our short-term goals and aspirations for the betterment of our neighbors and the planet as a whole.
Living in Sweden during the pandemic has been interesting. The nation has drawn an unusual amount of international attention for a unique approach consisting of giving epidemiologists the sole power of decision making led by the increasingly controversial Anders Tegnell.
Sweden never went into full lockdown and seeing masks was almost as rare as seeing rainbows. Yet where I live here in Malmo, nestled at the bottom of this long index-finger of a nation, across the sound from Copenhagen, we have been relatively untouched by the scourge.
On the way back from my first trip to Copenhagen since January, I saw something strange. Masks are required there on all public transport. But on my trip back to Sweden I looked up from my book after we crossed the border to Sweden and almost all the people in my car had removed their masks. I was surprised, learning a great deal about human nature at that moment.
“Cancel Culture” in a World of Cancellations
Sometimes I think about “cancel culture” against the backdrop of the coronavirus, and it gives me a chuckle. The idea that someone can be canceled by other people for doing something that they deem out of bounds pales in comparison to the real power of nature to cancel everything from a single human life to humanity itself.
Even the most powerful beings are not immune to the disease or difficulties surrounding it. With all there is in this global system we are a small part of. This can be a source of helplessness, but also from another perspective can be a source of relief.
The Silver Lining in the Coronavirus Era
Humanity has dealt with worse crises and even worse pandemics. But most will agree that we have been careening for some sort of disaster that would have dire effects on the planet, perhaps fatally wounding humanity. Not only would a truly airborne epidemic have been far more catastrophic a number of other things could happen such as a Trump incited nuclear war that would probably kill millions immediately and accelerate the increasingly perilous climatic conditions.
Perhaps the greatest threat to humanity is climate change and the virus has unwittingly slowed the progress in ways unimaginable a year ago. Those looking for a silver lining can point to the clarity of the canals in Venice, running near streets that had never been so vacant. Or the more than 70,000 sea turtles crawling from the Indian Ocean onto the sand in the state of Odisha, India to deposit their investments in the future without the human harassment to disturb their missions.
I can’t help but think that the entire system on earth has gotten tired of our polluting and pillaging and that in some ways this is a response to how far we have pushed nature in an attempt to control her. We cannot continue to live with the modern capitalist system that seeks linear growth through the dangerous methods of extraction and exploitation in a world of finite resources.
I must emphasize that any loss of a loved one is a tragedy and I do not want to make light of the deaths. With so many things going wrong, it is hard to see the silver lining. But if you look hard enough, there it is–right behind the cancelations.