Beginning of a 2020 Christmas Letter
(Ed note: This essay was the first part of a letter sent by family friend David Norcross. It was so insightful and entertaining that we asked David’s permission to reprint it on the Lens. Thank you David!)
Christmas 2020 and Other End of Year Musings
“And every picture shows a perfect family…”
No one has ever gone wrong starting a Christmas letter with a solid William Faulkner quote. But if you disagree, prove it. In this case, the quote is from Requiem for a Nun, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” So, what is this continuous chatter I keep hearing about the post-COVID-19 era being the “new normal?” What exactly was the “old normal?” Life is just past, present, and future. There is no “normal.” As Camus wrote (and you can raise your hand if you read or reread La Peste in any language this past year), “But what does it mean, the plague? It’s life, that’s all.”
Indeed, I have been happily ignoring much of these past few years. Until, that is, I became obsessed with the question, “Science. Is it here to stay?” Then I also became intrigued with how many things had become identified as an “existential threat.”
I’m still thinking about these things. My mind is full of existential threats and burdened with all manner of heavy, deep, and real thoughts. Mixed together with existential fears that science may or may not be able to solve, because science may be nothing more than a passing fad. Which means that science itself may be an existential threat.
Of course, I’m doing this while cowering inside the house. So, sure, I’m fine. It’s always best to err on the side of safety and reason. When it exists.
Which brings me to another shared experience from last year. Our collective answer to every question and response to every situation is, “Who knows?”
Do I need to wear a mask? “Who knows?”
Is this a good mask? “Who knows?”
Am I at a higher risk for Covid than other people? “Who knows?”
Is this safe to eat? “Who knows?”
How long will we be stuck in the house? “Who knows?”
When will there be a vaccine for all of us to use? “Who knows?”
Is it safe to go to the grocery store? “Who knows?”
Is it safe to open an envelope from today’s mail? “Who knows?”
Will 2021 be as full of joy as 2020? “Who knows?”
Is anyone driving this bus? “Who knows?”
“OK, Boomer. Enough of your pointless worrying.”
Fair enough. But trust me on this one, kid, I did learn a couple of things in my lifetime. I didn’t spend all of my free time helping to destroy the planet. When Richard Nixon resigned in 1973, he was succeeded by then Vice-President Gerald Ford. President Ford addressed the nation at that critical time in our history, famously stating, “Our long national nightmare is over.” I’ve been thinking about Gerry Ford’s “everyman” ability to shepherd our nation through a terribly traumatic event. Because, sometimes, our most important shared resource during a difficult and distressing period is simply having a normal person at the helm.
Which naturally brings us to Trainspotting and Mark Renton, who says in his cryptic Scottish accent, “Thir must be less tae life than this.”
Copyright © 2020 David Norcross
David is a Quaker, whose writing is influenced by the authors of the Harlem Renaissance and the Beat generation.