... And Another Thing
Right after going to press, I saw this video about Italians singing from the rooftop to survive quarantine and Chinese sending videos of support to Italy, which is achingly beautiful; despite it all, despite whatever rivalries and madness, humans are social creatures and stand together when necessary. It reminds me of a reference in How to Do Nothing (a reference to which book, I don’t remember) that explained that, contrary to pop culture representations, after natural disasters people don’t loot and take advantage of each other, but rather help each other out. And that brings to mind a poem I read, from the great (if sometimes inconsistent; not all poems can be winners) Pome newsletter:
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”
(The source seems to be here; I have no permission to reprint it but in times like this I’m not sure anyone would mind.)
“Don’t die,” we are saying. Beautiful.