Today, December 30, 2020, is the first anniversary of the first inter-agency announcements regarding what would later be identified as COVID-19. Two weeks later, on January 14, 2020, a team from BlueDot, a Canadian software company on a mission to “create a global early warning system for infectious disease,” published the following statement in the Journal of Travel Medicine:
“On 30 December 2019, a report of a cluster of pneumonia of unknown aetiology was published on ProMED-mail, possibly related to contact with a seafood market in Wuhan, China.1 Hospitals in the region held an emergency symposium, and support from federal agencies is reportedly helping to determine the source of infection and causative organism.”
Who among us would have thought such a definitively geeky statement would have indicated life as we knew it, hampered by myths and delusions or not, was about to be seriously hijacked and held hostage by a nightmare for the rest of the year? This author certainly did not. But yes, like many other Americans, I began paying closer attention to reports on the weird new coronavirus beginning to infect headlines on the internet, radio, newspapers, and finally television network news.
Well, I thought, this is something different. Soon, soon following stories the microscopic beast had started spreading its invisible mayhem on both coasts of the United States, I began writing my own reflections.
What Exactly Does This Thing Mean
Emerging reports on the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 repeatedly have confirmed observations made by authors like Albert Camus writing in The Plague, Thomas Mann in his novel Death in Venice, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 100 Years of Solitude: pestilence on a global scale can prompt human beings to act with either the most courageous and benevolent inclinations, or, with the most cowardly and heinous. Somewhere in the mix of those extremes, individuals in these socially-distant times are discovering what it means to have or not have a soul and the difference it makes when speaking of things like communities, love, or the future.
The indifference with which pestilence can compromise human life on a worldwide scale is one of its most attention-grabbing qualities. It is not slowed by ethics or a guilty conscience but only by the combined wisdom, knowledge, courage, and dedicated actions of men and women working to defeat it. It pays no heed to flags, gender-conflict issues, skin color (although the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 upon people of color in different countries has been well-documented), declarations of self-righteousness, or speech accents. Its single impulse is a vampiric one: to devour humans so its own lifeform can continue thriving.
Adapting, Evolving, and Persevering
It hardly seemed possible that in our ultra-modern technologically-advanced era we would find ourselves, at the end of 2020 going into 2021, stunned by nearly 2 million deaths worldwide and a steadily increasing overload of more than 82 million cases. At the time of this writing, it is estimated that someone somewhere on the planet dies of the disease every half minute.
It was a struggle, at the beginning, to adapt to the social distancing restrictions imposed by the pandemic. I grumbled about having to cancel book signings and lectures previously scheduled to support the launch of Greeting Flannery O’Connor at the Back Door of My Mind. That self-absorbing regret was soon dumped in favor of a determination to encourage others to support efforts to defeat COVID-19 and help protect those vulnerable to it.
Moreover, there was clearly a new and essential kind of work to get done. The introduction to Greeting Flannery O’Connor at the Back Door of My Mind had to be rewritten before the rescheduled Fall 2020 launch. Functions artwork suitably designed for face masks needed to be produced (something accomplished through partnership with Fine Art America).
And, perhaps most importantly, I needed to decide the form which my extended documentation of the pandemic would take. Neither a blog nor a podcast nor a single world of fine art would be enough in itself. So I decided, and began work, on a full-size book of full-page color art and texts presented in a unique format. Something like that was very much in line with one of the words used most frequently throughout 2020: unprecedented. Given the intense nature of the subject, I am hoping that upon completion and publication, it will prove appropriate and worthy.
Here's to a Happier COVID-Free New Year 2021.
Creator of Silk-Featherbrush Artstyle
Co-Author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
Author of Dreams of the Immortal City Savannah
Contemporary award-winning author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.