Michael K. McMahan | The Gaston Gazette
Here is not a good place. Here is isolation and confinement. Here there are limited personal interactions. Here we are hiding behind walls. We have what we need to survive. We have food, water, protection from the weather. We have enough. We have television and internet; Netflix and Facebook; telephones, mail, Amazon deliveries, all the necessities. But here is not a good place.
Why are we here? Because an organism, so small we cannot see it, wants to live. To live, it needs us. The virus is a predator. We are the prey. When we are not here in our safe place, we are vulnerable. An infected person can breathe the living virus into the air where we ingest it and give it another place to live, to multiply, to make us sick. We therefore choose to be here. We decide to live in confinement, safe behind our walls and masks. Thus, our lives are smaller.
Near the end of her life my mother was confined by her dying heart and struggling lungs. She was an aging mustang, gazing over the rail of her corral at the open spaces where she once galloped toward new horizons, smiling as she gathered others around her, always on the move.
Unlike my father who had his books and his pen and his strong voice for telephone conversations, she had nowhere to go and nothing to do and it was killing her faster than disease. When visitors came, she told them she was “ready to get out of here.”
By that she meant she was ready to leave not just this room, but this planet and by her faith and understanding to be reunited with her beloved Papa and Momma and her sister, Ruthie and brother, Charlie and so many others who had gotten out of here before her.
We were not designed to live like this. Early in the development of our species we learned that we are safer if we come together. When our predators were animals and bands of other humans, we found safety in a community of people like us. We looked out for one another.
We had long learned that “two are better than one,” because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10)
Over time we found joy in togetherness. We found pleasure in communities of common interests. We were bowlers and knitters and softball players. We joined reading clubs. We were in Rotary. We built organizations around helping others. We were volunteers at the hospital. We were on the Litter Cleanup Team with special T-shirts that proclaimed who we were, and what we were doing.
We interacted and interlaced. We hugged and cried and held each other’s hands and sat at small tables in coffee shops to talk about our problems, to celebrate the good in our lives and to support one another. Our co-workers were more than images on a computer screen. They were living, breathing human beings with feelings and needs and compassion. Work had more meaning because we were teammates and friends.
But not now. Not here. Here we are alone. When we get the virus, if we have other health issues, we may end up in a hospital bed, even further separated from those we love, cared for by professionals who are exhausted as they work courageously to save us and others. We may not survive. By then we may not care.
The obvious question is how do we get out of here? As this is an opinion column I am not held to the rigorous standards of science. I can offer my opinion. This is it. We simply stand from our sofas and chairs, put down the television remote, walk to our locked doors, open them, and emerge from our confinement. The cure to the virus may be the virus.
What I mean is the more we avoid infection, the longer we are going to be avoiding infection. If we have other health issues, we need to be cautious and perhaps choose longer confinement. But for the rest of us, we need to choose life. We need to go bowling; go to a movie; get together for bridge; go out for dinner.
Businesses need to get back to work in person, building culture and community, restarting the economy. Children need to be in school with one another and with teachers who have cast aside their fears of contracting the virus and returned to their commitment to teach.
Virtually everyone who gets sick will recover quickly and fully. Some will not even know they are ill. The endless testing and quarantine are doing the opposite of what we need. We need to return to normal. We need to get out of here and the sooner the better.
For me this, means being vaccinated and boosted and I am. Others can make their decisions in this regard. For me this means appropriate diet and supplements and exercise, a healthy lifestyle. Others can decide these matters for themselves.
For me this means using good judgment and not casting all caution to the wind. But for all of us it is time to move on. As more are vaccinated and more are infected, whether they are vaccinated or not, the virus will find fewer places to live and grow.
The longer we wait, confined and frustrated, the longer it will take. In my opinion it is time to get out of here and start living again.
Michael K. McMahan is a resident of Gastonia.