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The current struggle of the coronavirus is part of a struggle that wracks the sinews of the life of man with a quivering exhaustion and sick despair. It is a hideous feeling of being emptied out, in planetary vacancy, of losing all the high hope of our spirit’s purpose, and the heart’s integrity. It’s a feeling like being bombarded, emptied out and dissipated into a hopelessness nothingness, where all the spirit of man’s courage turns moribund and rotten, like a piece of aged fruit. All our sounding plans of work and great ideas seem feebler than the manic scratching of a dog on the earth. This tragedy, this unknown mystery, is a horror, that has seized mankind in the great jungle of the city and the once swarming streets, leaving him in groping confusion, having been brutally slugged in the base of his brain, not certain what has happened to him.

Covid-19 Death

A tragedy, Aristotle said, is the imitation of a morally serious action, clearly one that has taken place, or might take place, in the ordinary life of extraordinary people, in such a way as to show how its consequences follow inevitably from its nature. These consequences invariably involve the loss of education, well-being, or self fulfillment, not merely for the individual but for the society.

So often, catastrophe like a pandemic is the result of the excess of success, as if a vine of a tree choked the very tree it twined upon, or certainty, as we bet our lives on the ability to guess right, pursuing what we think is proper against every other advice; or of innocence, or loyalty, or honesty itself, so often not the best policy because virtue is the way to ruin.

The seed of a tree must not merely cope with the earth it is buried in and employ the moisture and nutrients that the soil offers, but it must compete with other plants for it’s light and food, avoid being chewed into oblivion by a deer, defend itself against the elements, while dodging disease, the sawmill, and forest fires.

History is a tabulation of accidents, colliding of causes, and its results are always tainted. History pays witness only to the din of sad disappointing ends. History is wreckage.

History is a tabulation of accidents, colliding of causes, and its results are always tainted. History pays witness only to the din of sad disappointing ends. History is wreckage.

Tragedy, drops one tiny stone into a calm clean lake, and then takes measure of the ripples that approach the shore, faint and nearly undetectable. Modern history, however drops a droneful of dirty gravel into a raging society of seas and like Oedipus, in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, waits to see his own tragedy unfold, and is the best spectator, because of his own blinding. He learns that what he may have never intended to happen, fate has seen to. In trying to find Laius’s killer to stop the plaque, Oedipus finds himself.

It was the philosophy of Plato, that taught us evil was actually ignorance, an ignorance that is chosen and cultivated. Plato and Socrates taught passionately that most beliefs were bunk, and that exposing and ridding of the bad belief was as integral to the healthy mind as the excision of cancer was to the body it threatened. To have a brain full of bovine fundament and nonsense was far worse than a nose full of flu from virus. We must exercise our heads and understand what the diet of our mind does to our consciousness, our character, to the body we pray to, and the salvation we seek.

In the tumult of our dissonances, it is critical not to allow our intentions to rule and regulate and direct the others. It is a matter of the politics of desire with impunity, or as Plato said when asked the question of the moral agent: “what faculty of the soul is in control of the will?”

Our sentence as the virus pandemic demands, is that our hunt, our search, our reclamation of the the past in order to rightly reclaim the morality of the future, is not like our search for our mislaid keys, our theatre tickets, or even a lost weekend, because those searches end in the hum-drum when Sunday comes, the curtain falls, or the lock-smith is summoned. Man must overcome man, our sentence must be the recovery of a life, fully fledged, freshly painted with the promise to bring everything that life has touched, from the shady side of the tree where moss and indifference naps, to realize finally the enlightened beauty and bounty of our progressive moral illumination.

Our sentence must be our return to the written word, the critical critique of where we’ve been and where we need to go. Our books are there not only to comfort us, but to enlighten us about the world. Only the wicked or the ignorant can be pleased with the present state of things. While the virtuous may disagree with the reasons for our plight and threaten to fall to fighting over who is responsible for the millions in misery, they only increase the flood of dumbing discourse, through the vapid ignorances, lies, hubris and imperial conceits, of the growing number of hypocrites, jackals, and rogues.

Our fictive beliefs, are symptoms of a virus. They are often ignorantly or narrowly held. They become treasured parts of our sense of self. They are our sacred talisman to soften fears and promise hope. Our beliefs beckon us to be humble, because our beliefs our superior, and that all men are equal except the ones we are asked to kill. Our fictive beliefs unite us like nothing else will. They reassure and rid the dissonances of our mind, by suggesting that there really can’t be millions of virtuous and faithful citizens identically mad at the body politic that for so long has not been doing what the people want.

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Playing the devil to our own Faust, unable to see the snare that’s been rigged in the thicket, we often persuade ourselves things to be true, things we feel clear to the bottom of our feet that are false. No one really knows the truth, either about himself or about anyone else. All recorded human acts and words are open testimony to our endless efforts to know each other and our failure to do so.

Mass corporate culture has been eating away at the enlightened culture’s cookie for centuries. As adults, we rule ourselves. This is a false ideal of course, because when the state is poorly managed, its population remains children, as the brilliant Athenian lawmaker Cicero wisely said: “To continually remain in the infancy of knowledge, is to forever remain an intellectual and emotional child.” They fire their guns into the sky, they die for the wrong causes, they allow their passions to be stirred by the raucous rhythms of war, they read only one book.

For, if we tell only nice things about Zeus and his fellow loungers on Mount Olympus, so that our youth will have something to be devout about, we shall be forced to tell lies, for the gods are wicked, and don’t rule the way guardians are supposed to.

The poet William Butler Yeats knew the truth. “If you have no anger at the world, anger at its willful stupidities, it’s grim indifference, it’s real sins, it’s murdering hordes, it’s smug myths, exploitive habits, it’s catastrophic wastes, the smile on its hyena hungry face, it’s jackal tastes, then you belong to it, and are one of its apes; though animals should not be so disgraced as to be put into any simile with man.”

We all belong to that great lost tribe of people, that futile, desolate and forsaken horde who felt that all will be well with our lives, that all the power we lack will be supplied, and all anguish, the fury and the unrest, the confusion and the dark damnation of man’s soul, can be magically healed if we eat the right bran for breakfast or win the lottery. Our impulse has not been to embrace life and critically decipher it, but rather to escape from it.

It seems the inscrutable virus of Providence has willed its way, whether to wealth or poverty, grief or happiness, illness or health. Now, we find ourselves in an entreaty of pitifully begging for the alms of mercy, a beggardly scrap of encouragement, a $1200 payday, a “happy meal” palliative, a specious fractional release from debt and servitude, a deserved step toward our dispossession. Once more we experience the ancient hopelessness of hope, the knowledge of despair, and the faith of our desolation. Today, we bank together, alone in our social distancing, against the arrogant antagonists, for comfort, warmth and love, with a courage and integrity that will not die or be destroyed and will not be forgotten.

So many times, we have foreseen as man will foresee the coming of the enemy. We had always pictured him in a definite form and guise. He had come before, armed in insolence, impunity and power, badged with the open menace of a jeering world, the hateful sneering tongue, and the brandished fist. He had always come to strike terror into the heart, brandishing naked threat and open brag, in effort to break the heart, health and courage of another man, to win the merciless domination of another’s life, by violence and brutality of force. A new iteration of a viral enemy has come, not armed in brutal might and from the front, but subtle, crafty and infinitely cunning and unforeseen, from a place such as a petri-dish in a laboratory.

Our experience over the sanded drip of time, has given us no adequate understanding or preparation, because it has been steeped in peace without hope, in beauty without joy, in tranquil and brutal resignation, without exultance. When shall it all cease; the blind groping, the false desires, the fruitless ambitions that grow insignificant as soon as they are reached, the vain contest of hedonistic self indulgence, the maddening and agony of the brain and spirit in all the rush and glare of living, the dusty tumult, the grinding, the shouting, the manic repetition of days, the sterile abundance, the virus of gluttony and thirst which forever goes on drinking?

We are so lost, so naked and lonely in America, as we have become a moral and ethical desert, after forty years of the fraud of neoliberal economics. Immense and cruel skies bend over us, and we are all driven on forever, as we social distance.

Our sentence now, more than ever before, as this viral pandemic engulfs us, demands us to join together, think together, and actuate that greater good, that magic consonance of pristine logic and knowledge, to bring about the progressive change so desperately needed today.

bur dream began as a seed given in a state of loving and our journey will in the end, narrow to nothing in the blank horizon, as the train rails of our travels narrow behind us. When we fall, when it comes our time and we have lived a life full of days, like the seed of an unseen leaf, the seed that was the glory of our birth, will again be part of earth and will be reborn to our common sentence of bravely fighting the virus of injustice and arrogant human hubris.


Tim Duff