Thursday, March 19, 2020
Readiness is all
I strive to be rational, and to live a rational life. But I'm not Mr. Spock, so fall prey to some of the same irrational practices dabbled in by everybody else. I wish upon stars, touch wood, and consider certain situations "lucky."
Or unlucky. Baseless fears and oddball notions afflict just about everybody, and such tendencies are amplified by strain, such as the current crisis.
For the past few days I've been seeing crows—large, deeply black birds—as not just a welcome indication that the crow population has rebounded. But a sign. A bad sign. A warning.
Crows aren't quite vultures, but they are omnivores, and will eat almost anything, including carrion and, given the chance, our corpses. It's like they're watching us. Waiting.
Nor is it just the crows. I set out to walk our dog Kitty Wednesday morning. After a few steps, her attention was riveted to a spot on the lawn in front of our house. She snuffed mightily, and I noticed a scattering of white wisps. Fur of some sort. Plus a bloody leaf, and, at third glance, a white puff that had to have been, until very recently, a rabbit's tail. The culprit? A hawk, probably. Or perhaps a pre-dawn coyote—we saw one only a few weeks ago.
I gazed down at the white tufts and had a single, chill thought —I'm almost embarrassed to say: "An augury!" A presentiment of what is to come.
And that is? Difficult to put into words. Something along the lines of: Nature doesn't care about our little edifice of society and culture and hopes and selves. Death just scythes the field, it doesn't first sort the good from the bad. I'm sure that was a fine rabbit, handsome, intelligent, with a tidy hutch somewhere, nosing the morning air for a waft of delicious ... whatever the heck it is rabbits eat. Then bam! Doom from above. Or a final thought, "Oh sh..." as the coyote pounces.
A prediction. An augury.
Luckily, I had a few lines of Shakespeare to bat that away with.
"We defy augury..." then—God, this is really embarrassing—"There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all." I said it out loud.
No kidding. Getting ready is about all anyone can do nowadays. That and wait. And worry.
The readiness is all. That seems a sentiment worth sharing in these parlous times. Readiness is good, is it not?
And yes—don't all shout it out at once—I know the trepidation that Hamlet feels is well-placed: he is reluctant to agree to a duel with Laertes that will in fact—spoiler alert!—kill them both. Readiness doesn't help him much; he shoulda paid attention to the signs.
But the current contest is one that will go on with or without our consent. Ready or not, the sword's hilt is thrust into our freshly-Purelled hands and we must duel with this invisible thing, this virus, defending ourselves by ... geez, washing our hands a lot I guess and keeping a sword-length of distance.
We defy augury. How? Yes, by being ready. By doing what we can to prepare. Also by not being too afraid. Notice, I didn't say "by not being afraid." A certain amount of fear is inevitable, and even useful, to the degree that it prompts you to vigilance, doing the steps you're supposed to do to keep yourself and others safe.
But not so much fear that it poisons these pre-spring days. Even in the very worst scenarios, the vast majority of people will be fine, only suffering the harm of having to live through the coming ordeal. Unlike that poor rabbit.