Roger Marolt: The only thing worth this tremendous cost is life
If I survive this coronavirus, I understand that I will have an incredible debt to pay back to society. It is already evident. There will be innumerable people to thank; everyone, really. Immense sacrifices will have been made. Of course, there is no way I will ever be able to pay back everyone who has played a part in keeping me breathing, but I swear to you that I will spend the rest of my life trying. This will make me a better person. I’ll see to that.
But, let me start with this presumption: I don’t think this thing is going to kill me. Hopefully I won’t even get it. I am practicing social distancing. I am healthy. I eat well. I don’t drink too much. I get plenty of rest. I exercise regularly and finally, after five decades of experimenting with things like power lifting, ultra-endurance events, and youthful years literally jumping off cliffs with skis on my feet, I think I have finally figured out what is truly good for my body. Yes, it includes yoga. Better late than never. I will even go so far as to say that, even though I am in one of the higher risk groups for contracting a lethal case of COVID-19 according to my chronological age, mentally I’m still 30 so, like an ostrich believing he is flying backward through time, the days on the calendar are the grains of sand I bury my head under.
I also understand clearly that all this feel-good self-evaluation of my current state of being is no vaccine. Something is going to kill me and in the dawn of each of the 21,176 days I have lived, the odds steadily increase of me bumping into that cause around the next corner. I am not worried about this fact, but I am aware. It keeps me honest, at least more and more frequently. I never imagined the scope of this pandemic. I will likely be equally surprised when my personal mortality presents itself indisputably.
Some have asked if creating panic, serious inconvenience, and a global economic recession resulting in hundreds of millions of people being unemployed and trillions of dollars in savings and retirement accounts being wiped out in the tumbling stock markets is worth the price of standing in the way of this virus running its natural course. We can actuarily assign a price to every life, right? It’s as simple as putting pencil to paper. Is the sum of those lives we might be able to save worth this tremendous cost? We’re all going to die someday anyway, right? Is all the suffering and hardship that comes with social isolation worth what we are enduring now?
This equation is simpler to solve than it may initially appear. I think few would argue that the personal portion of this great burden that we individually must bear is not worth the possibility of preserving of our own lives or those of others we love. If that is true for every individual then it is certainly true for the whole of humanity. If we can afford ourselves the affirmative evaluation of this personal trade-off, we must allow it for all others, too. In the end, if we are so lucky to be alive and nobody close to us dies, then we can say unequivocally that whatever cost it was to us was worth it. Only those who unfortunately do lose a dear friend or relative in this battle will have a claim that the effort was a waste. They are the ones who will wish we would have done more. Even still, in their mournful regret, they will at least be able to say they tried.
It’s not all bad, either. We are finding out that there are lots of things and distractions in our regular lives that we don’t need. We are forced to move now and are cleaning out the closets with conviction. There is junk in there that is completely useless but that has been laying around so long in the corners that we stopped seeing it and accepted tripping over it every day was just the way things are. We dig it out, lift it up, and heave it into the dumpster and suddenly see how much room has been freed up. We also rediscover treasures that we knew were there but had long been neglected. Family, friends; it’s easy to forget how valuable these are. They shine more brightly than ever.
So, once we get to the other side of this, I promise that I will be a changed person. I will be a better person, more appreciative, less harsh. I will recognize that a natural force with the potential to destroy can, with us properly addressing it and treating it with respect, have the power to transform civilization for the better. After things have settled down, how will I ever be able to look at this world and the game of life as an us versus them proposition, experiencing that it is actually the ultimate team sport, that it takes all of us to win.
Roger Marolt is hunkered down in the darkness and looking up at the bright spots that prove the sky is not falling. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Columnist Roger Marolt is learning to hold his breath longer during these hot, dry summers, he writes.