The Necessary Changes

Kakao! That noise.

We heard from the school director.


Wife’s work is now closed until the 22nd. There was a possibility that she would be back at work tomorrow but the school closure guidelines changed – adding another two weeks– and, as the director put it “the Korean government is very strict.” This is, obviously, a bit of a kick in the nuts. But, on the other hand, it kinda gives a person a bit of a renewed grip on things.


Strange things happen to the mind in isolation. It’s nice to a have a concrete and personal reminder that you haven’t just flipped out and locked yourself indoors. To remember that there is indeed a whole thing going on. You start to wonder. To doubt. You feel like it’s gone on long enough and should be done but it’s not done and it can go on as long as it likes. It gets strange after ten days. You’ll see what I mean soon enough, I’m sure.

Two added weeks also means that we’ve had to reconsider what we consider necessities.

I’m not sure of the exact dates but this situation has been going here since late January. It’s gone through various phases. In very general terms, there was the start of it, when no one had any idea what they were dealing with but there were also few instructions about it. Basically, back then, you really just did not want to sneeze or cough in public. Then the cases started appearing. One here, one there. All sort of linked. While it all seemed serious, none of it seemed overwhelming. The transmission was understood. Steps were being taken. That went on a while. It seemed like things were getting back to normal.

Hell, even the president said “The worst is over.”

Then, suddenly, the worst (yet) arrived. There was the massive outbreak in Daegu. The red alert for the country. The ‘do not go out unless you need to’ instructions. The kids vanished, the schools closed, and the streets emptied. Normal vanished. It had to. Normal was obsolete and dangerous. Normal could no longer be allowed.

The just-released recommendations from The San Francisco Department of Public Health puts it pretty nicely: “Today’s recommendations will cause changes in behavior for systems and individuals. They are meant to disrupt normal social behavior, because the virus thrives under normal circumstances.” That’s a nice way of putting it. Watching the American response is like watching the past play out. The song has the same sort of rhythm, but the whole orchestra is conducted by people who would have to be considered totally incompetent if they were not, so transparently corrupt and just looking to turn yet another bloody buck off human suffering. Yet the San Francisco Department of Public Health can at least be congratulated for the bleak poetry it has brought to the The American Experience.

“The virus thrives under normal circumstances.”

This is what you must keep in mind.

“The virus thrives under normal circumstances.”

Forget your old poster and teacup. Stay calm and carry on? I’m afraid not.

“The virus thrives under normal circumstances.”

Stay calm, yes. But carrying on? That’s a problem.

“The virus thrives under normal circumstances.”

You cannot carry on as normal. Things change. Handshakes, high-fives and hugs are the necrocontacts. The thing you wanted to do is cancelled. Your life is littered with necroevents. The kids vanish. The schools close. If something feels normal, you have to examine it. Normal might be a comfort but it is not a friend. “The virus thrives under normal circumstances.” You must learn to thrive under abnormal ones.

The long and the short of it is, the situation basically sucks. There’s the obvious stresses of just being indoors. There’s other stresses. You have to make decisions about things you never really had to think about. When you just want to leave home you have to ask “is it necessary?” And you have to be honest about your answer and scrupulous about your response. It’s not a matter of if you can do a thing but if you should. That, in itself, is tiring.

It’s similar to the exhaustions of poverty. But even poverty is often made up of what you can do rather than what you should do. Whatever a person’s economic situation, most people don’t live according to what they should do. Maybe we all should but we just don’t. Instead, we all tend to do what we can afford and maybe just a little bit too much of what we can get away with. Whatever your situation, this crisis shrinks both parts of that formula. It leaves you alone with what you should do while it attacks what you can afford to do. Balancing is tiring. You have to navigate this planet’s new gravity yourself yet according to instructions.

In the desolate poetry of public health recommendations, Ki Moran, directing the Korean Society of Preventive Medicine’s committee for emergency response said: “The kind of crisis we are facing cannot afford individual behaviors that deviate from the recommended line of action.” That means, you’re not fucking special. Your needs are not more important because they’re yours. Follow the damn rules. It’s no fun for anyone. It’s not supposed to be.

And, if there’s one thing that I would like people to understand about how to think about this, if there’s one basic attitude that I think everyone should adopt, it’s this: Don’t think about not catching the bug. It’s not a ‘you versus the world’ thing. Thinking that way is ineffective and leads straight to scapegoating. It always means it’s someone else’s problem. Instead, think about yourself as already having the bug. Think about your situation as “I have it, I don’t want to spread it.” That’s the mental model you need to adopt. Within, reason, you know?

Only go out when necessary. It is good advice. It’s not fun. But it’s good advice.

Like The Normal, The Necessary is subject to change. A sprint is run differently than a marathon. The breathing, the pace, the simple needs. The Necessary changes.

Since the start of The Red Alert, Wife and I have been scrupulous in our observation of the recommendations. It hasn’t always been easy. We had our ten year wedding anniversary just the other day and the closest we came to having a date was taking out the garbage together. Though, in fairness, such minor actions do feel a little bit like a date now.

Happy anniversary, honey. Don’t say I never take you anywhere.

We will still be scrupulous about observing our instructions. We will not deviate from the recommended line of action. No trips to the malls, the museums, or the coffee shops. Say what you want about Wife and I, we are team players. But this is a long game.

Seeing how we’re in this thing for at least another two weeks and quite possibly longer than that (the war will always be over by Christmas) means that we have to adjust what consider necessary. Getting outside has become a necessity. We have to pace ourselves for at least another two weeks of this before we enter whatever the next phase is.

I don’t know what that next phase will be. I suspect that will be something like a return to normal. Re-entry into a permanently altered society haunted with necrocontacts and ghost concerts, full of new daily measures and routines. Some things are going to stick around and other things are going extinct. It’s hard to see yet what any of that will be. (I have some ideas but they might need their own post.)

But, during this particular phase of the crisis, we’re going to start taking walks. Not to crowded areas and not during crowded times. Midnight strolls along empty roads.

This New Normal might be nocturnal but it won’t be permanent


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