There are some things in life that are impossible for the human brain to fathom.
For example, one billion dollars. I’m sorry, but if you’re reading this you have no comprehension of how much money that is. Another one of these unfathomable things is the size of the universe. Don’t even try—you simply cannot comprehend this kind of breadth. And now we have one more thing to add to the list of things we will never understand—a deadly virus. The opposite in size from the other two examples, but just as confounding nonetheless.
Sure, we know that a billion dollars can buy a wing on a new stealth bomber (or hot meals for millions of hungry people.) And we know there are lots of stars in the night sky when we look up (which isn’t often enough.) We also know that people around the world are dying because of a virus.
Only, we can’t seem to wrap our heads around this virus. As such, we can’t comprehend how efficiently it spreads, or how something so small can be so deadly in the first place.
I recently read a post by a scientist who explained the size of COVID-19 this way: “If you took a strand of human hair, and magnified it so that it was the width of a football field, the virus would come out to the one-inch line.”
It’s a strong visual that helped me realize that I simply can’t comprehend this thing. For example, how can something that small kill a full-grown healthy human being? Ok so we kinda know how—it latches onto our cells and replicates until we either fight it off, or it shuts us down for good.
All this said, I definitely understand how some people might not consider this virus a serious threat. I really do. I’m not going to come in here and bash people for not comprehending this thing. Hell, most scientists barely understand it, as the term, “it’s unlike anything I have ever seen” is commonplace in the science community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So if scientists barely understand it, then how the hell are regular people supposed to understand it?
If we’re even meant to understand it at all.
But here we are. Thanks to a thing we can’t see or understand, most of the United States is currently in a lockdown. We can’t go to work, we can’t visit friends, we can’t go to the movies or out to dinner, we can’t go to school, we can’t even go to church. Add to this that most people don’t know anyone who has been infected, and you’ve got a hot mess ready to boil over.
OF COURSE people are going to question the legitimacy of the science. ESPECIALLY when they get all their information from a media source that’s trying to keep them tuned in. Combine this deep skepticism with leadership that not only can’t comprehend the virus, but thinks that we will just go back to normal pretty quickly, and the result is a bunch of angry people who are willing to risk everything to fight for their right to party like it’s 1999.
This is America, by God. We have the right to protest for liberty and freedom. (Unless, of course, you’re Colin Kaepernick.)
So what can we do?
Not a lot, actually. I mean we could lock down the nation in a military quarantine the way some other nations have. And that seems to work pretty well for restricting the spread of the deadly virus. But we’re a long way from that here. If that comes here at all.
No, the solution is to reprogram how we think about the threat. Because it’s something we must think about. So we need to change how we think about it so that we understand and can defeat the threat.
I’m thinking that if this virus weren’t microscopic, but rather large enough for us to see and avoid, it might change how we think about it in terms of respect. Might. But even a virus the size of a Buick isn’t all that ominous. There would still be people who’d say, “Look, this thing can’t catch me. I know where it is at all times and besides, I drive a Camero and can easily outrun it. We need to lift these restrictions and get people back to work and their normal lives! Anyone stupid enough to rub up against this huge virus deserves to die.”
Which is to say that size isn’t the only factor here. We need something more … foreboding.
So what if we thought about the virus differently altogether? For instance—let’s say that instead of a virus, the threat was actually velociraptors. Billions of them. Velociraptors everywhere. And we all know that raptors would rip us limb from limb before feasting on us. They don’t care. And no one wants to be eaten. No one. Not even hardcore Americans who value money more than life.
But here’s the thing, because the raptor pandemic started in Asia, and they’ve had more time to figure out how to survive, we have learned that the raptors WILL NOT KILL YOU if you stay in your house. For some reason they just won’t bust in. We still don’t know why. But the fact is, if you stay in your homes, you are 100% safe. Oh, and the raptors actually die on their own between six and eight weeks after showing up in your neighborhood.
Sigh. If only this virus was hungry velociraptors. If it was, I’m guessing we’d gladly stay home for a couple months. Then the threat would pass, and we might could watch Fourth of July fireworks on the beach.
Too bad Dr. Michael Crichton’s gone. He wrote books about viruses and velociraptors. He’d know exactly what to do.