coronavirus and reading

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Pandemics Favor Readers & Writers (File Under Small Consolations)


Although it’s true that pandemics are more democratic than a kids’ pick-up basketball game without refs, they do play favorites in some ways. For infecting people? It is to laugh. I mean to help certain people to help themselves.

Tops among these favorites are the introverts who love to read and write. All our lives we’ve been told that our pastimes are among the loneliest, and it’s true, but consider the adjustments going on in society now that the world at large is under siege.

Hunkering down? Sheltering in place? For most, these words are horrifying. For most, these words bring visions of cabin fever, solitary confinement, boredom run rampant.

Not so for the reader / writer. Bookish introverts have some experience with this. And we have role models, too. People like William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton. Both of these luminaries lived through the Bubonic Plague (though in different years during the 17th century).

In 1606, when his acting troupe, The King’s Men, suspended production due to the ravages of the Black Death, Shakespeare hunkered down and sheltered in place (he just didn’t know it) to write a few trivial plays. Today they are known as King Lear, Macbeth, and Anthony and Cleopatra. Not bad for a plague year’s work.

In fact, one wonders—were there no plague—if all three of these would have come to fruition that year. Maybe two would? Or one?

Isaac Newton, too, had to batten the hatches and hide from perfidious disease. It was 60 years later in 1666 (one of the Devil’s favorites), and Newton was forced to cabin in Cambridge. While the Grim Reaper worked tirelessly outside, the wigged wonder harvested wondrous ideas inside. Namely Newtonian physics and some torture now known as “calculus.”

So, friends, the conditions may look bleak for socialites and extroverts who love to party, participate, go clubbing, go out to eat, go out to theaters, go out to ball games, et and cetera, but for you?

For you, there’s now no excuse. This is your hour (week, month, year) to shine! This is your chance to not only read more books than ever before, but to write more than you ever have.

Yes, even if the Internet collapses. Neither reading nor writing is Internet-dependent, after all. Annus mirabilis, then. “Miraculous year” or “amazing year” or “year of wonders,” it means.

2020, in so many numerals.

So consider this your pep talk. Your positive thought for the bleak day. You’re looking at the biggest lemon of your lifetime outside that window (or inside that screen). Take courage and make the biggest pitcher of lemonade you can.

It’s called survival. And opportunity. The strangest bedfellows you’d ever expect to find under sheets.