A Nation On Soma Wakes Up

One catastrophe at a time.

For the last few nights, I’ve been watching A Brave New World. I see a fictional culture popping pills whenever they have a feeling that is unapproved. If they feel sad, they have a pill. If they feel angry, they pop a pill. Everyone has a pill dispenser that clicks when a pill is dispensed. Feelings are hot potatoes. Pills make them go away. They call those pills, Soma.

The nation I live in now kind of looked like that, before the pandemic. Sometimes, when the news is on TV, I’d see the ads for drugs. The drugs had fancy names for ailments I never knew about until I saw the ad. Then I’d see ads for sleeping pills, for migraines, for menstrual cramps, for gas, and for back pain. When I compare the two worlds, the Brave New World, and the one we live in now, I see that they’re not that far apart.

I get the mail and I see the pamphlet from Costco with the latest and greatest deals. I flip through the pages and one of the first things I see is masks from 32 Degrees. They make clothing to keep you cool and warm. I’ve worn their shirts for years. Now they make masks. Very stylish masks.

My country has been transformed. Everyone is wearing a mask. The masks are branded now. TechDirt, a website I like to read for legal and technology news, sells masks with their logo on it. I’ve seen masks for pop-culture, too. Spiderman, the Joker, Mickey Mouse, and Batman are all out there if you want one. Black is in. I don’t mind the masks, really. If we’re going to slow the spread, we need to wear masks.

We’re practicing social distancing, too. We stay 6 feet away from each other when we’re walking or shopping or in school. When we’re out shopping, we wave to our friends instead of going over to talk to them. Clear plastic barriers have sprouted up everywhere. We’re cleaning everything, over and over and over. Nothing will ever be clean enough. We can’t be careful enough. We can’t be close enough.

This morning, I was thinking about the masks and the pandemic. I was thinking about how masks have become fashionable. I see the models in the sidebar of the web page, they’re wearing masks. I see how attractive they’ve made masks look. I’ve seen how they’re making masks that appeal to our fashion sense. We want to look good wearing a mask.

And then the following lyrics come into my mind:

Dressed up like a car crash

Your wheels are turning but your upside down

Those lyrics are from the song, Stay (Faraway, So Close!), by U2. That description fits our country right about now. We’re dressed in masks and we’re trying to make them look good. We’re staying far away from each other, yet we want to be closer. And we have no idea when this will stop.

I saw a headline that says that the spread of the coronavirus is out of control in at least 32 states. Three days ago, we crashed through 5 million cases. Worldwide, the United States is number 1 in total cases and deaths. Our economy has been wrecked. Nothing will ever be the same. By the time the pandemic is over, we will have adapted to a new way of life. And we still have an election to go.

Vote by mail is in. Most of us would vote by mail if we could. I live in Utah. The entire state of Utah has been voting by mail for years now. Yet Donald Trump derides vote by mail. Unless you live in Florida. Then vote by mail is cool. LIve in a swing state? President Trump says that’s OK, vote by mail from there. Anywhere else? Forget it. Not approved.

Schools will open soon. My kids are going to school. I’ve seen the plans, I think they have something worked out with masks, social distancing, contingency planning, remote learning, the works. it’s all there. We’re just going to thread our needles through the pandemic. We’ll get there.

Vitamins. Whole foods. Fresh air. Yardwork. Morning walks. Board games. Family time. Water. Lots and lots of water.

I see the ads when I watch Brave New World. Beer. Lots of beer. Lite beer. You know, if you’re worried about calories when you drink beer, you’re probably drinking too much. Alcohol damages internal organs. Those internal organs support every function of your body, including your immune system. I’ve seen what alcohol does to the face, the body, the mind. The Peacock Network has not done their homework. They don’t know that I don’t drink and that I have no plans to ever take another drink again. Those beer commercials are wasted on me.

Then they advertise shampoo. I’m going bald. I don’t cut my hair. I shave my head every other day or so. I shave my mug every other day or so. If I feel grubby, I shave. If my face itches, I shave. I shave my head for the heat transfer. I shave my head because The Hair Club For Men is expensive. I can think of better things to do with my money than to restore my hair. I’m fashion-challenged, I guess, but I like my head shaved. So I don’t really care about shampoo.

When I see the ads, I see the level of control that they are promising. Control your hair, your weight, what you see, what you hear, how you feel. Get control of yourself now so that you can feel better about life because life is going to take a turn. The pandemic will get worse before it gets better. And there is still an election to go. The election promises control.

“Life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans.” That was John Lennon speaking. I think about that quote from time to time. I’m reminded of that quote when there are disruptions to my life. So when there is a disruption, I try not to take it personally. I adapt. I take a breath and let the feelings pass so that I can see what happens next. I’m not interested so much in controlling it as I am in moving with it.

I have been lucky so far. I still have a job. I still have my family, my home, food in the fridge, money to pay the bills. I have a job that I enjoy enough to do it well. Or maybe I do it well so that I can enjoy it. I never really know what comes first. I just know that I work from home now. I have enough for today. I see the headlines in the news and most of them don’t really apply to me. I’m somewhat aloof.

I know that there is suffering out there. I know that people need help. I’ve been sending $20 a month to the Food Bank for months now. I thought it was $10 a month and I was doing that for years, but my wife bumped it up to $20 a month without telling me. I don’t mind. I want them to have the money. I know that they will help someone with that money. Everyone needs food. That’s my tiny little contribution to society, to set things right.

I mow my lawn and I’m happy. I trim the edges and I’m happy. I use the leaf blower to clean up around the edges and I’m happy. I use the leaf blower to disperse the clumps of clippings leftover and I’m happy. I feed the lawn about every 8 weeks and I’m happy. It’s so green. The lawn feels so pleasing with bare feet at sunset after a long hot day.

Congress is fighting over a relief bill. The president writes an executive order to keep the money flowing, despite the fact that Congress makes all appropriations. Another disaster is about to unfold as millions of people fail to make rent. I get that from the headlines. I know it’s there, but I’m here. In my house, with my family, all paid up after working a long hard week of helping customers at my day job.

I’m learning, I really am. I’m taking a college course in writing because writing is far more entertaining than TV. I get something from writing that I can’t get from watching a screen. I’m sorting my thoughts, I’m making plans, I’m considering my options, I’m taking inventory of everything that I’m thankful for. I have gratitude.

I know this article seems like a ramble, it is. But I see the stream of headlines and it’s a ramble, too. We’re on the road to nowhere and we don’t really know where this thing is going. We know it’s a pandemic and we’re doing everything we can to stop the spread. I’m doing my part by staying in, staying safe, tending to my family. At the moment, this is all I can do. Sometimes I just have to accept that this is it. This is all I can do.

The nation is waking up, one disaster at a time. Every headline is a wakeup call. Every headline is a call to action. Most of the headlines are beyond my circle of influence. Most of the headlines hardly touch upon my life. This is what I remember when I read the news. I’m only looking out for my family, looking for anything that might touch my life. And if I don’t see anything that touches my life, I go back to whatever it was that I was doing. I know they’re out there. I’m awake.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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