A doodle of the virus in my notebook

It’s hard to remember there was a moment when the novel coronavirus was finite, when patient zero’s immune system might have wiped it from the earth completely. Or the virus could have died with its prey before infecting a second person. How many other vicious little organisms have come and gone this way? The mysterious illnesses, the unknown causes. From a blind Darwinian perspective, a virus can be neither too weak nor too lethal: it must keep its host semi-functional so it can spread. This thought leads to a thrum in my belly, a swirl of panic.

This season of suspension will tint the thoughts of all who survive it. Bright-line moments from recent memory cannot compare, those shocks we’ve reduced to shorthand for before and after: 2016, Katrina, 9/11. Perhaps this pandemic—not just the virus, but our garbled reaction—belongs to the category of hyperobjects that operate at scales beyond human comprehension, such as the climate crisis or the internet.

The mind craves rhythm and needs the dots connected. Scatter a few coins on a table and the eye hunts for a pattern. But despite the monotony of these pandemic days, there is no pattern here: everything’s still rolling across the table, ready to land in ways we cannot predict: jobs, surveillance, shaking hands, and—midway through this sentence I’m interrupted by a memory of an old man standing outside the Helsinki train station in the rain: “The situation is that we’re born then we die and what the fuck.” Good enough for now.

Björk – Hyperballad

From Post | Elektra, 1995 | More

The name for Timothy Morton‘s hyperobject concept was inspired by this song. And the image of throwing one’s belongings off a cliff feels oddly resonant with the current mood.

Each night in 2020 I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these times into my memory. Before the world changed completely.