The Beautiful Irony of Coronavirus

A Vivid Covid-19 Realization

Photo by CDC

In the midst of the worldwide panic surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, it can be hard to find a sense of grounding. Yes, there is a novel, mutated virus spreading at exponential rates throughout the human species. No, there are no known cures. Because the virus originated from an animal (thought to be a bat), and then mutated, it infiltrates our cells and squeezes it’s own RNA (ribonucleic acid — a molecule vital to DNA responsible for coding, programming, regulation and expression of genes) into them, where it multiplies and spreads. Because our bodies don’t recognize the animal gene sequencing, they begin to overreact and attack our own, healthy genes, resulting, in the worst cases, in a double-pneumatic system breakdown. Our lungs are choked and drowned in fluids.

Human cell structures immunoflourescently stained for microscopic observation. Photo: Salk Institute/Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Core Facility

This, at least, is how I most simply visualize the sickness, and I regurgitate the dismaying illustration here not to incite fear, but instead to convey the bigger picture realization that I had this morning about the historic moment in human history we are all sharing right now.

Let’s take a step back, momentarily, and suspend any microcosmic political or cultural mantras we might cling to. Those things are tiny and not necessary for sharing in the reading of this piece. This is about a much bigger picture. Join me in imagining it.

It is no secret that the planet and humanity have been suffering the effects of a changing climate. We are overpopulated and at the height of industries that deplete natural resources and deposit multiple metric tons of pollutants into thin air. I use the word “thin” very specifically. If you look at the next image and see the pale blue veil of atmosphere that is the only known protection we have between us and the vastness of oxygen-vapid space, it is in fact disproportionately thin. It reminds me of the thin walls of microscopically magical cells that breed all known life into existence.

Photo by Louis Reed

While we here on the surface of the planet debate whether or not we should or can stop the levels of carbon dioxide from rising in time to keep the atmosphere breathable and comfortable for our species, the larger organism that we are a part of has been hard at work, fighting it’s own infection. The planet has been choking, finding it difficult to breathe. As Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park prophetically said, life finds a way.

Thus the impetus for this essay was born. The thought dawned on me that — as the ultimate reminder that we are all connected — the human species of the planet is suddenly united in fighting a common enemy: Covid 19. And in order to do so, we engage in the following measures:

  • staying at home
  • shutting down non-essential manufacturing and production
  • avoiding crowded spaces
  • utilizing the beautiful array of digital, connective technologies that we’ve built to function
  • looking out for one another
  • shifting industry to production of only that which will help us fight this fight
  • taking a hard look at what we consume daily as we plan for unknown spans of time in quarantine
  • realizing just how interconnected we all are

It is not lost on me, the irony of this exercise — perhaps the greatest challenge we’ve had yet to face as a conscious species. We are being forced to sit at home and watch the news and for once, be one with our thoughts. We are taking a Big Pause.

The Good News

The satellite imagery above shows the drastic drop in emissions in Europe, especially in Northern Italy, as people retreat to fight our common enemy from home, with stillness.

Joshua Stevens/Copernicus Sentinel 5P/ESA

The next image shows the reduction in emissions over China, where Covid-19 originated. As the worlds’ largest manufacturer, witnessing these changes of China’s altered atmosphere is, in itself, historic.

The death toll of Covid-19 is grim, and has yet to see it’s peak. Levels are exponentially on the rise in The United States and yesterday Italy posted nearly 800 deaths caused by the virus alone. Worldwide, healthcare systems and hospitals are inundated with patients and don’t have enough ventilators to keep them all alive. They can hear patients’ gasps for air as their lungs fill with fluid, attempting to fight the infection. We are still in the fight of our collective lives. But these grim images and reports can’t help but bring to mind the bigger picture, the great irony that these symptoms are the same ones that our planet’s atmosphere is dealing with. Where is earth’s ventilator, it’s courageous nurses and doctors, risking their own lives for the greater good; the good of the collective?

Perhaps, just perhaps, this pandemic is the planet’s gentlest, kindest way of nudging us to work together. Perhaps, though the toll is still great on humankind, perhaps this Great Pause is where it will be revealed that we can continue in the comforts of modern life in a modified way with a gentler effect on our collective lungs. Perhaps, in this moment, we will open our eyes and see how truly interconnected everything is, that the lines on the maps we draw and redraw are imaginary. As long as we have the gift of global travel and communication, we are one. What we do in one corner of the planet echoes infinitely, bouncing around in the atmosphere forever.

I know that we will get through this. I know that we go on. Whenever I look at the image of the Covid-19 cell structure at the top of this essay, I actually see it morph into another, very similar image. There is no coincidence in the similarity of it’s structure to our planet, floating in space, with little trees and worker bees populating the tiny, thin surface. Join me in envisioning this virus morph into a vibrant, colorful planet that takes beautiful, deep breaths together. Symbiosis.

I will meet you in that future, where we can discuss happier things. Perhaps we’ll discuss the modern renaissance we all experience during this time as we finally have time at home to work on the art or research we’ve secretly been putting off. Perhaps we develop new and beautiful relationships we could have never envisioned before. Perhaps I will finally finish writing a book and get back my long-gone six pack abs. Whatever it is, I can’t wait to look back on this time as the great awakening where we collectively take a moment to sit back, observe, and listen to everything around us. The time when we collectively heal.

We are in this together.

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all that you touch you change. all that you change changes you. the only lasting truth is change. god is change.” ― octavia e. butler

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Daria Benedict

Daria Benedict

Writer. Lover. Pianist. Activist. Singer. Rapper. Philosopher. Digital Strategist. Marketer. Passionate producer of ideas that change the world. @dariaofchange

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