Waylaid Dialectic

March 8, 2020


Filed under: Random Musings — terence @ 5:43 pm

I had plans. Friday. The weekend ahead. I was going to escape the city to the always-blue sea. The thought propelled me, pedaling as fast as I could, out of campus in the late-evening dark. I was on the same path I always cycled, past the courtyard, across the alley, speeding by the bushes, around the corner and then… overlapping fences straight across the path!

A safety feature, they must have gone up during the day, designed to slow cyclists. The only way through was weaving at a crawl. I wasn’t crawling. I had no way of knowing. The bushes obscured them. The warning signs would go up a week later. I pulled on both breaks, my wheels locking on the gravel. Futile.

There was no time to do anything. No time for anything, except the fastest flash of thought: ‘What’s going to happen? How will it end?’

Fence, me, path, bike, speed. Obviously not good, but how bad? In what way? I still remember the flash, part thought, part feeling.

Years later now. I live in New Zealand. I’m feeling something like I did in that moment, except stretched over weeks… months.

The first cases of Corona virus are here.

How will it end? How will it unravel? I’ve got all the time I need to do the calculations, but there are too many variables, and only one future. Will our government and people coordinate to control the spread? Can they do it for this wave of the disease? The next wave? Every wave until there’s a vaccine? Will the health system cope? What about the second-order effects? Does China come chugging back to industrial life? Does that save global supply chains? Does that save our exports? Can the state prop up the economy if needed?

It’s easy to imagine a perfect storm: the economy on the rocks, services struggling, community struggling as the government tries to use quarantines to quell the spread of illness. More modest scenarios are also very possible. Disease stopped fairly easily through infection tracing. China’s economy bouncing back. Most other countries also holding the virus in check. A bad year in it’s way, awful in places, but soon, elsewhere, it’s only a memory as life trundles on.

And that’s the strange thing, I thought, this morning as my wife and I went to a typically busy cafe, got a coffee and went for a swim in the sea. We’re waiting on the edge of something, but what? Nothing to do for now but wait and wonder. The edge of something. But what? The edge of something. What?

Who knows how, but I cleared the fence that night. I vaulted it with one arm. A twist mid air. An almost landing as my bike clattered into the posts and wire. An impossible move for a middle-aged guy, but I did it.

“Jeeze mate. Are you alright. That was a real stack mate.”

“Yeah. I am. I think. Just my wrist a bit sore.”

I collected my bike. It was in one piece too. I got shakily onto it and rode home. Just as planned, I surfed the next day.

I’m hoping for that ending this time round. Of course. I can’t tell if that’s already impossible though. Fanciful thinking. So — instead of flying through the evening air — like everyone else, I wait.

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