An inescapable agent

I sat down this morning to write about hubris, or “pride,” but the dictionary reveals more about hubris: “(in Greek tragedy) excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.” This required another visit to the dictionary for nemesis: “a downfall caused by an inescapable agent.”

Regardless of how 2020 plays out, I’ll remember this coronavirus as a nemesis, an inescapable agent that has reminded us of our inherent vulnerability. We try hard avoid to vulnerability. Security is a big business, including (broadly) the sale of firearms, fighter planes, home security systems, financial services, and the production of masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

Last night, the lights were on in medical laboratories around the world as some of our best and brightest search diligently to find a remedy for, and a vaccine against, COVID-19. Meanwhile, we adjust to a “new normal” of no handshakes and limited exposure to our fellow humans.

At one time, our nemesis was the poliovirus. I remember my mother’s fear that swimming might bring me into contact with that inescapable agent. Thank you, Jonas Salk (1914-1995).

I’ll write about hubris another day.

Photo of Jonas Salk by Yousuf Karsh, from “Jonas Salk, the People’s Scientist,” an excellent article by Algis Valiunas, in The New Atlantis, Summer/Fall 2018

2 thoughts on “An inescapable agent”

  1. I am reading your blog every day, but don’t have anything to say. It’s all beyond me to try to add anything useful to the conversation.


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