Commentary: Love in the time of Coronavirus

When Gabriel Garcia Marques wrote “Love in the Time of Cholera,” he probably could not have imagined 2020 as recreating the ontology of his 1985 fantasy novel becoming a near reality.

 

As did his storied lovers, we are floating down a river in time isolated in our own river-boats, while the world hunkers down under the threat of a pandemic every bit as impactful as Cholera was to its relative generations.

 

In Marquez’s story, his lovers isolate themselves from others and experience a new and shrunken Lilliputian world consisting of their riverboat’s small cabin. Many of us, even those without love, without family, know more of this time. 

 

We can only relate to them in isolation at home, ”floating” on our electronic devices, while being reminded that the world outside exists at all.

 

We no longer have to trek to a store to shop. We can order food, conduct business and have zoom meetings from home. Rather than flying to a destination for an in-person meeting, air travel has become less compelling, even considered unsafe. 

 

All of these have major implications for pillars in our economy, and our social constructs of daily living.

 

The old ways of commerce have changed forever businesses like Macy’s, JCPenney’s, and airlines worldwide are teetering on the precipice of insolvency and the ropes of bankruptcy, while electronics and virtual commerce such as Amazon thrives. But what about that Mom and Pop grocery store you grew up going to?

 

In short, it appears that the need to move people and the need to leave the safe confines of their homes may be fundamentally altered for some time to come. Like the passing of the Cholera pandemic, the resolution of this season’s corona crisis will result in the slow emergence of the masses from their enforced isolation.

 

Love is an action, a verb, and just as in the time of Cholera, the current pandemic is redefining what constitutes loving action. Now, even when engaging in daily life activities, the experience is compromised by feelings of the person right next to you being a possible threat.

 

All these mega-trends, away from personal interaction and towards virtual communities must undoubtedly be accelerating the move away from the face to face humanity and towards humans as tribes of their own making.

 

These are all distinctly first world problems as this pandemic has threatened the daily routines of richer developed nations, far more than it has disrupted the daily lives of people living under third-world conditions who have been suffering for years before the pandemic. People in third world countries do not have the option to protect themselves in isolation. People in Palestine do not get to order from Amazon. 

 

Our quotidian past lives are now changing. And while we see news stories circulating around how Jeff Bezos may become the first trillionaire in human history, some of us are interested in the love story of a couple who never got to see the world before they grew ill and had to say goodbye. 

 

Perhaps it’s possible that before the pandemic had even begun, that we were already being trained to isolate into one big lonely planet. What does that lonely planet look like? Well, for those of us who have not experienced loneliness prior to the pandemic, no one can predict what that might look like for them.

 

Yet like passengers floating on a lazy riverboat, the nature of time and its passage on this planet is forever altered, as we perhaps look at images of people fade away.

 

Daily rhythms seem altered and the routines governed by the clock during the prior more hectic time just a few months ago seem less important. Gone seems the un-policed camaraderie which characterized our most popular communal gatherings. 

 

Now to what degree will we emerge?

 

• • •

 

MAHA, artist, reporter-journalist, legal analyst-commentator and essayist writing for The Madera Tribune can be reached at Mahaheart.org

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