The above image and caption is from the CDC site. https://www.cdc.gov/media/subtopic/images.htm
I could not emphasize enough that not one of you, nor I, can explain that caption.
If I break it down grammatically, like 8th grade sentence-diagramming, it says, “The particles contain cross-sections.”
What does that mean? Is there a problem when particles contain cross-sections?
Beyond this, “spherical extracellular viral”, and “through the viral genome”, and “seen as black dots” are also utterly unintelligible to me. To be clear, I’m saying that even after reading “seen as black dots,” it would be silly for me to say, “Oh, I see what you mean,” given that the entire image is black dots against a white backdrop.
COVID is black dots? Stop the press!! It’s all over my phone screen!
All this is on my mind partly because of that line I included in my recent “stupid” post about the stupidity of COVID illustrations, and partly because I’ve been listening to a podcast called “Closer To Truth” which is some sort of fun “X-Files”-feeling, state-of-physics-today (in layman’s terms) show. It generally accomplishes its purpose, but the other day one of the interviewees referred to an illustration to make his point about multiverses and the size of everything. This use of illustration to explain truth, then, triggered me again.
The simple fact is using illustrations to convey truth bothers me.
A little backstory: Before modern script writing, like alphabets and even syllabaries before them, man often used something like emoji’s to communicate across great distance, time or space. We might call them pictograms or hieroglyphs. And when it came to numbers, some cultures used certain animals to express differences between say hundreds, thousands, and whatever they thought (but couldn’t utter) was bigger than thousands. A cow might mean hundreds, a frog, thousands, and an infamous one to express the largest amount was a stick figure of a man apparently examining the grandness of the starry night with open arms. To our eyes and ears and minds, this fact—this use of pictograms by our ancestors—is intriguing at best, and downright embarrassing at worst. But here we are again, using artist’s renditions to explain “truth”.
So what should happen instead? Here’s an example. If you’re tempted to ask, “Is there a multiverse?” The person you’re asking should say, “That’s the wrong question.” (The physicists would admit that.) The right question is, “Will our children think the idea of a universe is a quaint, but obsolete understanding of things, in the category of earth-as-center?”
And my point here is not physics, but reasoning, dignity in fact, so I need to say that if my children are going to think in terms of multiverse, they’d be fools for doing so because of illustrations. This is no different than how I believe you’re foolish if any part of your atheism or belief in evolution comes from the illustrated sequence of a monkey gradually standing upright.
Same goes for COVID. Is there a new virus or illness or health issue on Earth? Whatever our opinion, we’d be foolish if we based it on an illustration.
Another example of getting at truth properly: I knew I could be a pilot because I saw planes fly.
And another (negatively): Not one writer of the Bible uses an illustration—whether clay, or ink, or tapestry—to persuade either their contemporary audience or us.
I must insist on decrying the use of illustration when it comes to truth because, interestingly enough, the experts keep using it. At its root, an illustration can only ever be truth in the sense that the illustration commissioner, upon reviewing the piece, says, “That’s exactly what’s in my mind.” That the illustration matches his imagination can be true, but that does not move the argument along. The further—and necessary—step of “…and what’s in my mind is truth,” is not contained in or advanced by the truth that the illustration matches the mind. The man behind the imagination still has work to do. The truth debate is between individuals. Talk to me. Use your words. I’ll listen.
Don’t be fooled, folks. If someone pulls out an illustration to answer your truth question, still or motion, assert your manhood or womanhood; give yourself dignity and ask them to use their words.
One of the ways a distant king garners direct power over his distant subjects is by offering and providing them protection and relief from their more immediately located feudal rulers and their policies. This “offering protection” doesn’t have to mean much more than “hearing constant petitions and seizing convenient opportunities to increase his power.” In other words, the low-level ruler, whether exercising legitimate or illegitimate power, does it poorly and so creates a need for relief in his subject. The subject petitions the far away king and the rest falls into place. The king gains loyal subjects until he has enough to clearly have real power, while, at most, the low-level ruler continues to rule in name only. (And at worst, war precedes lasting peace.)
Hold that thought for a second and follow me from kings to doctors.
Who among us hasn’t been fed the idea that going to the doctor is a good thing for our entire lives? We may not have wanted to go sometimes, but that wasn’t because we didn’t believe in the doctors ability, it was because being ill clouds judgement.
From the earliest times, our parents may have helped us through minor illness or trauma, like a fever or a scraped knee. But there was always a possibility that we would need to go to see the doctor. Hear me carefully here: once we hit a certain circumstantial threshold, the doctor was the only solution. So if one doctor couldn’t help, there was no other solution, just a more specialized doctor. It wasn’t ever, “I can’t help ya, let’s get you to a lawyer (or a plumber, or a pilot).”
From another angle, if you have ever needed legal help, you were advised by all to see a lawyer and eventually went to a lawyer. And if the first lawyer proved incompetent, then you went to a better lawyer etc.
But when you’re with the best lawyer and about to win whatever the dispute is, if in that moment you get sick enough, then you enter the doctor realm and remain there. A failed doctor visit only leads to a different doctor, not a visit to a different profession. Again, once certain situations unfold, you never leave the doctor realm.
And another angle: if you need to travel, you call up a pilot, or some specialist delegated by the pilot, to book a flight. But while on that flight, if you get sick, you are diverted to the doctor—and at no point will you, in the process of solving the sickness problem, be diverted to anything other than doctors.
Put plainly, we all have been living, pre-pandemic and now, under the belief that doctors-as-problem-solvers were meaningfully all-powerful.
And the trouble with this can be made clear with the analogy to kings gaining power. Serfs and others needed protection or relief in a way that they couldn’t achieve from their direct rulers, so they went to the next level up. They eventually went to what had to appear like an almost mythical character called a “king”. They brought, more than anything, hope to the king, hope that no matter how inept or unqualified he had proved to be thus far, that he would be able to help me now. The position itself, rather than the individual holding it, turned out to be the thing that mattered in many cases.
Fast forward to 2022 and even the “king” (POTUS) defers to the doctor when faced with a challenge.
The President defers to the doctor.
And that’s what makes the pandemic the most compelling conversation topic. The king didn’t provide relief. The pandemic is not over.
We serfs still have pressing problems.
Putting this all together, then, the definitive reason why the pandemic is the most compelling topic of conversation is we have no one, literally we don’t even have a position or concept of a position, to help us. In the analogy I’ve used, we are the serfs being harassed by the Lords. Who is our equivalent, distant king? Who can we write to? Who can we appeal to?
The definitive reason we can’t stop talking to each other about the pandemic is because it has made evident the lack of a relief valve/person/position.
We want relief. We know that. But to whom do we address the letter?
(For my Christian readers, surely Jesus is our deliverer. But He was still on the throne when the serfs petitioned the earthly kings of old, too. So I’m suggesting that even if all prayer was directed to Jesus, we still are not set up for earthly relief. Remember that even the Israelites appealed to their neighbors’ having kings when they asked for a king. It wasn’t like Yahweh is in the business if inventing political systems.)
And, for better or worse, this seems worth discussing.
In the podcast episode linked here: Uncommon Knowledge, you’ll hear an excellent episode about the pandemic.
Two key points: Herd Immunity is defined as when you spread the virus to one person or less—not some miraculous moment when a community is completely free of the disease.
Secondly, the interviewee preaches harder than any actual sermon I’ve heard in years and years and years—and he doesn’t even raise his voice (nor is he a preacher). He says that all the folks claiming to want to protect the poor, the elderly, and the children in pre-pandemic times had their chance to shine during the pandemic—and blew it. Those groups have all suffered the most because of the lockdowns. (If you’re not seeing the connection, try, the people who were going to stay employed during lockdown were all in favor of it, no matter who said what about how negatively it would effect the poor, the elderly, and the children of the world. Way to go, hypocrites!)
Okay. I feel like this second point may turn-off some possible listeners, so I want to be clear. The doctor guy didn’t rub it in anyone’s faces or anything. He’s compelling throughout. I rub it in their faces because I am under the stress that we all are this week as we see what happens to our co-workers come Nov. 1.
In the last such post, I offered that one handle on the pandemic was to consider that it was the result of the absolutely damnable wasted opportunity to keep our citizenry educated. (Public Schools must be abolished.) Today, I want to comment on another aspect of the uncertainty, and in so doing add a second handle.
Much like an earlier post which attempted to take a god’s eye view of white-collar managers’ all-time favorite sport of office-switching, which I wrote in order to lambast the clearly superficial effort that somehow still takes place, today we’ll similarly view the present uncertainty with a view from the sky.
To do this right, we need to spend a minute on assumptions. There are six.
1. To be a pilot you must be brave. So in a pilot’s eyes, everyone choosing to alter their lives because they might die is cowardly. When afraid, learn. Your fear will disappear with knowledge.
2. Normally, to be cowardly is thought of as weak and unmanly, but for the purposes of this thought experiment, it’s fine. Because at least we know where each other stands. And now that you’ve admitted your fear, you can overcome it.
3. We know that the virus doesn’t kill us at an alarming rate. So we shouldn’t fear contracting the virus. Got CoVid? So what? Yet we still live in fear.
4. We know the positive test result doesn’t mean we will have symptoms. Tested positive? So what? Yet we still live in fear.
5. We know that people who wear masks still test positive and still show symptoms and still die from the virus. You’re wearing a mask?! So what? Yet we still wear masks. Yet we still fear.
6. Another assumption: Something should be different today due to the timeline being different. Just like our perspective changes the higher our altitude, our understanding of the situation should be different now than it was in March. Why? We’ve had more time.
Assumptions stated. Now let’s talk.
So what’s the difference? We now know that the only real burden the pandemic places on us is that we don’t have enough hospital rooms/beds. That’s it. If there were enough hospital beds, the, ahem, leaders would have nothing to write home about. If there were enough hospital beds, we’d no longer be afraid. If there were enough hospital beds, we’d know, in precisely the same way as we do with all the other diseases we’ve been living under threat of, that if we get sick, we go to the hospital.
Now let’s imagine I’m really onto something and that we fix it. More hospital beds? Poof! Done.
Now let’s take a look at our planet from the heavens. With me? What do you see? Yup. Me too. We moved people from one place to another.
Aren’t we smart?
Aren’t we compassionate?
Aren’t we little scientists?
Aren’t we really doing it?
Here’s the thing. As I get older, I’ve been struck by the thought that you’re not older than me. You’re either the poor performing football star of high school or the poor performing partier of college. In both cases, you never learned how to read. You didn’t know what you were doing then, and you still don’t. And yet you get a thrill out of having something to do. Well, guess what? You’re still illiterate. And if you’re not reading, then you aren’t doing anything. You’re certainly not helping. You’re middle management at best.
Building a hospital bed helps stop the pandemic? I won’t have to wear a mask because we built more hospital beds? Are you serious?
You were a placeholder before the uncertainty began and you’ll be a placeholder when the uncertainty is over. Why? Who knows? Because you want to be. That’s probably why. What I’m asking is that you stop playing adult and start living as one. Life includes disease. No amount of hospital beds can fix that. Have a different fear than running out of hospital beds? Fear something besides “overburdening” the healthcare system? I’m all ears. And then I’ll help you overcome that one. For now, stop telling me what to do. You’re as stupid as you were in high school and college. I didn’t listen to you then. I won’t listen to you now.
More in the “diary” vein of blogging.
We don’t have a tv. Consequently, my step-son doesn’t watch movies or tv on the regular. Every once in a while I show him something on the laptop. Last night was Sandlot. He noticed this one as I searched for Goonies the last time, and so I figured it’s a good wholesome film and it might even set him up with the desire to attempt some baseball in the coming season. It’s also uncannily about a boy moving in with a step-dad (who won’t let him touch his stuff) and being new to the neighborhood–all true-to-life circumstances for A-.
Let’s play baseball again. This post serves as my call for MLB to return to the field. Despite not being the most fanatic fan, I still cannot imagine an American summer without America’s past-time. Sooooo, instead of canceling summer, let’s cancel panic and play ball. I’ll be there the minute the gates open.
Second, and I hid this point on purpose, we need to talk about what panicking is. Actually I can’t. I shouldn’t. I want to, but I won’t.
Suffice it to say, I’ve instructed my family to not buy a toilet paper pack bigger than 18 rolls the next time we find any. 18 is the size we’re currently on, having purchased it back in February sometime before any of the hysteria. So that’s why. But from now on, if the choice is 18+ pack vs. 4-pack, then we get the 4-pack. Someone has to set the example.
What are we going to do without toilet paper? After a quick internet search, I’ve come to resolution. Cloth rags and a diaper genie. And probably a lot less fast food.
You all are going to have to live with the fact that you panicked. I’m going to have some extra laundry.
But maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to claim that I encouraged others to end the hysteria.