Now that everyone has a working context of my reasons for being in New Zealand during the Pandemic from last week’s post, it seems like a good time to reflect on my thoughts about my being here. Obviously, it feels glorious, exciting, and unbelievable. But behind the initial cloak of exhilaration, is a gloomy feeling of an imbalanced existence.
The first sensation is that of chance. Like winning the lotto, or how fortunate you feel for something that happened to you but that you had no control over. No skill, or talent, or grit. Just luck. How is it that I, as an American, can travel halfway around the world, to flee the doom of the rest of the world’s woes? Will we pay the price later? Is it a fluke, or is it something that will suddenly reverse?
The second sensation is that of loneliness. Why are we able to go about freely, in a dream-like society, to walk about and engage with other human beings? What privileges are we given for something that other citizens throughout the world are unable to do? As social animals, humans depend on our relationships with others. Despite being able to interact with 5 million other humans on a captive tropical island, what keeps us from interacting with 5 billion others?
The third impression of being in an odd, or unique country as New Zealand, is the abnormality of normality. People go about their daily lives, yes, with difficulties, but far, far less than those faced by the rest of the world. We can smile at others on the street and they can smile back, with 2/3 of our facial features unmasked.
We are able to hug each other—the most priceless possession at the moment for me and my family. And we are able to conduct life in normal ways—shop, go to the post office, have dinner in a restaurant. And we can even get ourselves exasperated at traffic, stand in line a little too long, and complain about the sports teams’ failures.
What has caused these feelings? No one asked for the pandemic. There is a price for interacting. The urban advantages of living close together are challenging us. But rural freedom is also paying its price. Neither environment is doing much better than the other, as we see numbers climbing in the U.S. in both types.
I have always been fascinated with anthropology. But it will take anthropologists a long time to come forward with their analysis of the pandemic. Maybe it will take decades or even hundreds of thousands of years before they are able to grasp the phenomenon of what we call COVID-19 and the havoc it has wreaked on our society today.
Perhaps they will find evidence of the pandemic. Like mass burial graves in Italy or China. Or chemical traces of the vaccine in our bodies we took to extend our lives. Or a sudden drop in world-wide birth rates, just like what one reads on tree rings indicating droughts. The scads of evidence collected will not convey the human emotion and stress.
New Zealand has indeed done a few good things. And with skill and endurance. A commendable deed between a government by the people and for the people. The U.S. has lost its moral compass, but long before this pandemic. The basics of human dignity were already tossed aside.
I feel as if I am living in the future, seeing normality in a world yet to experience it. Soon, the rest of the world will normalize. Streets will be populated, animated with people meeting people, and lives connecting again. Soon, the rest of world will be living their expected lives with fun, humor, sadness and irony. I am looking through this lens now.
I am grateful to be in a country that enables me to temporarily avoid the woes of the rest of the world. I can only hope that the rest will become “normal” again by this time next year. There will be many stories, tragedies, and fallout, just as there had been from the last pandemic. And we will recover. Mankind can only cope with so much before the next one strikes.