So, yesterday marked our attempt here in Georgia, in some small way, to return to normal. This is not to say that normal behavior for Mike would be to get a tattoo or go bowling, because he is unlikely ever to do either. But now he could, that is, if he could push past the hordes from Tennessee and Alabama that must be rushing our Georgia bowling alleys and tattoo parlors as I write this. (Thanks for the gag, Judy.) I think it has yet to settle into the general awareness of people here that what used to be normal may never be seen again. Steve Hummer in today’s AJC wrote that “normal(ly) left town over a month ago.” I don’t think we will ever see everything go back to “normal,” some things in ways we cannot yet imagine. But here are some examples: Many businesses that closed will never reopen. Many people are learning that they can get along nicely with a lot less. Businesses of all types are discovering that operating on line has its advantages, and will continue to do so in some significant ways after the danger has passed. Many people that were or are still alive are or will be dead. No disrespect intended, but once we have succeeded in controlling this epidemic the death toll will be the equivalent of a whole lot of planes falling from the sky. And don’t expect control any time soon. The coronavirus is highly contagious, so much so that probably 90% of people exposed will get infected. As long as the virus is out there, and as long as there are substantial numbers of susceptible people out there, we will continue to see plenty of infections. Universal vaccination is the only realistic answer to this problem, and this won’t happen for a couple of years in all likelihood. So, the new normal is new, and here, for sure. What we need to learn from this disastrous circumstance is that we need to be much better prepared for epidemics of novel respiratory viruses, because this isn’t the last one we will see.
I may have mentioned this before, but in some ways Mike is rather strange. You know what an earworm is…..a song or phrase that won’t get out of your head. Mike woke up a few days ago with “Megawati Sukarnoputri” running through his head. He thinks it started in a dream. Why this happened is, like all the Great Questions, unanswerable. Thankfully, the storm has passed, and there is room in Mike’s head for other things again. Megawati Sukarnoputri, in case you don’t know (or, for that matter, even if you do know) is the oldest daughter of Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia. She became active in politics herself, and served as the 5th president of Indonesia from 2001-2004. Her full name is Diah Permata Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri. Now that would have been as earworm! More like an ear anaconda. The name Sukarnoputri is a patronymic meaning daughter of Sukarno. Indonesians don’t have surnames, per se. Mike told Judy that he had an earworm but didn’t tell her what it was for fear that it would be contagious, as they often are.
And speaking of contagious, to continue with our theme, let’s talk about leprosy. The Torah portion read in synagogues this week is the section in Leviticus that deals with leprosy. There is extensive discussion of what to look for, and what priestly rituals need to be executed in order to deal with it. Clearly they realized that it is a contagious disease. Fortunately, we now know more about the cause and treatment of leprosy than was known at the time of the writing of Leviticus. Also known as Hansen’s Disease, leprosy is caused by a bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae. This is an extremely slowly growing and poorly transmissible infection, sort of the opposite of COVID-19. It involves the skin and peripheral nerves. Typically patients develop either flat hypopigmented patches, or nodules. There can be extensive destruction of the nose. Involvement of the peripheral nerves leads to loss of sensation of the fingers and toes. In advanced disease the digits can become deformed and even disappear. In Biblical times leprosy was suggested to be the result of a moral failure on the part of the afflicted individual. There are two Biblical instances in which someone was stricken with leprosy through a moral failure. The first was when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush. Moses told God that he couldn’t do what God asked because the Hebrews wouldn’t listen to him. His response indicated his lack of belief in God’s power. God struck his hand with leprosy, and then relieved him of it immediately, as a sign of His power, just to show Moses that He wasn’t messing around. The other instance was when Moses’ sister, Miriam, was critical of Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. Cush according to the Book of Genesis was a son of Ham, and grandson of Noah. He was also the father of Nimrod. The people of Cush are thought to have lived in Ethiopia and the Sudan, and were dark-skinned. (Moses was not the only man in the Bible to dig black chicks. King Solomon had quite an affair with the Queen of Sheba. Mike carried on this noble tradition when he married Penny, Michelle’s mother. He says it is the most biblical thing he has done in his lifetime.) So, God struck Miriam with leprosy, and then relented after Moses asked him to. One proof that leprosy is not due to a moral failure is the fact that armadillos are susceptible to it, especially in the southern United States. You don’t have to believe me. You can look it up.
I could go on and on, as you know, but I think I will leave it there for now. Other than the reality of our new normal, things are well in Happy Meadows. I hope the same is true for you, wherever you are. Don’t get careless, be well, always love your neighbor, and don’t forget to give your cat a big kiss. Bye, bye!