Among the many vulnerabilities exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, surely the catastrophe created by the neoliberal commodification of elder care must rank among the most acute, with devastating losses suffered within nursing homes, including both residents and caregivers.
Now comes Lynn Casteel Harper, presently Minister of Older Adults at The Riverside Church in the City of New York and author of On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia and What It Means to Disappear. Released during the early days of the pandemic as it spread throughout the United States, the book offers a luminous exploration into the gradually descending darkness of dementia, advocating for alternative elder care practices that support those afflicted to “vanish well”.
Excerpts from a recent interview below, with masks relayed from the website of William Utermohlen.
MASK WITH RED NECK
MASK WITH BLUE EYES
Now comes Naomi Klein with a lucid analysis of one possible though not inevitable outcome from the Age of Covid-19, a post-pandemic shock doctrine that would retrospectively confirm Black Mirror as an anticipatory documentary rather than an exercise in the dystopian imagination.
The entire essay is worth close consideration; a brief excerpt below, with an image (caption added by DP) from the studio of Jakub Geltner.
Thus at exactly the time when we need to connect more deeply to the realities of the natural world, while also connecting with each other in more compassionate and immediate ways, the hubristic pseudo-titans of Silicon Valley invite us into a world of perpetual surveillance, behavioral algorithms and learned helplessness.
After all this grief and suffering, they propose to accelerate the Great Acceleration to warp speed, an appropriate tempo for such a warped, narcissistic and nihilistic vision. Shaped by terror of fleeting mortality, their wish to live in an untouchable world discloses a puerile refusal to acknowledge limits. At a time when we humans need to do (and be) less and then less again, their shallow understanding insists on more always more.
This too shall crash.
Aware that the pandemic has severely attacked vulnerable communities of color, including tribal communities whose members may not have access to adequate health care nor clean water, we turn to a young voice from the Navajo Nation (Diné), Alastair Lee Bitsóí, relayed from the pages of the Navajo Times. Excerpts below, with images from the studio of Tony Abeyta.
With endless rain slowly coming to an end here in the mountains, mushroom foragers are preparing their mud boots for slogs off the beaten trail. Mushroom hunting is an excellent activity during a time of social distancing, since foragers are naturally inclined to steer clear of other humans so as not to divulge their precious discoveries.
Below, a few excerpts from an extraordinary Derrick Jensen interview with master mycologist Paul Stamets dating from 2008, yet still sounding fresh as an April morel. The images are from the hand and eye of Azuma Makoto whose stunning botanical sculptures raise our spirits every time we stumble across them in the fungal forests of the internet.
Now comes philosopher Byung-Chul Han, known for his enquiries into seemingly (and only seemingly) benign themes such as smoothness, tiredness and the culture of “liking”, with a few thoughts on panic, contagion, immunity and resistance. Excerpts below from an essay first published in El País.
Images are relayed from the virtual studio of Lawrence Weiner.
Now comes Dahr Jamail, with a timely and crucial reminder that zoonotic pathogens might be released in the future not only as a consequence of human encroachment on wild habitats, but also as a direct result of climate breakdown.
His entire report is worth careful consideration; excerpts below, with Images from installations of Olafur Eliasson’s large scale meltdown, Ice Watch.
About Ice Watch, Olafur Eliasson states:
During a time of year when we are moved to reflect upon themes of rebirth, redemption, sacrifice and regeneration, we turn to the perennial wisdom of Thomas Berry, in a passage from a 1996 lecture at Harvard on Ethics and Ecology. Images are from the stunning growing grass sculptures of Mathilde Roussel-Giraudy.
In closing, we offer a poem by Mary Rose O’Reilly in anticipation of new life that shall emerge, in time, from the vessel’s wreck:
Now comes artist Julie Poitras Santos, with a creative perambulatory digression, as relayed from the pages of the esteemed Brooklyn Rail. Images are from her related video, The Conversation. In times of pandemic, the sense of personal agency experienced via the simple act of walking through the natural world becomes especially precious.
The entire DP staff will now set forth on a slow woodlands ramble, in conversation through uncertainty.
Now comes evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace with excerpts from a 2017 interview in which he critiques the search for Patient Zero, and argues for a deeper understanding of zoonotic microbial pathogens. Italics added by DP. Images are relayed from the visually rich archive of Sonja Hinrichsen.
Finally, two stanzas from Corona Radiata, a much longer poem by Fady Joudah:
Parallel to the coronavirus pandemic, we have a toxic infodemic that magnifies the sense of helplessness and fear. Here at DP, we struggle every day with the question: what more can we do to help navigate such riptides?
At the very least, we can keep a close ear to those who best understand the genesis of what we are facing, such as the voice of David Quammen whose Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic was published in 2012. Excerpts from a recent Orion interview below.
For a book, we would encourage settling in with Richard Powers’ The Overstory. Two of our favorite quotes below:
“People aren’t the apex species they think they are. Other creatures-bigger, smaller, slower, faster, older, younger, more powerful-call the shots, make the air, and eat sunlight. Without them, nothing.”
“You and the tree in your backyard come from a common ancestor. A billion and a half years ago, the two of you parted ways. But even now, after an immense journey in separate directions, that tree and you still share a quarter of your genes. . . .”
And finally, a link to an outstanding performance of the Albinoni Adagio, offered as protection against useless panic and fear: