Cloister Commentary, Day 207: What You Reading For?

The day was quite frankly overshadowed by the worrisome news that Nicole will be heading back to in-person instruction. Neither of us are of the opinion that the health of the community in any way dictates a safe return to buildings by students, faculty, and staff. It’s certainly improved; it is still not good. We spent part of the evening beginning to consider precautions we’ll need to take at home. Of course, we’ve been taking them since around The Ides of March, but clearly they will need to be ramped up. Could she (or I? or we?) die? Yes, though that is unlikely–however, our experiences with death over the last five months give us no comfort. Could she (or I? or we?) get sick? Much more likely–and I don’t know if you’ve done your homework on the virus, but the majority of folks that contract it don’t just get over it. Its multiple effects recur over time, and in some cases have not dissipated at all. Could we get friends, family, co-workers, and students sick, and might they die? Yes, and we have many older friends and family members. Should we institute a home system where we distance and mask to discourage hugs, kisses, eating at the same table, hanging out in the same room, and sleeping in the same bed? It is a big deal.

We are well aware so many are suffering the social and economic effects of this virus more drastically than we are (we think and talk about it all the time, with heavy hearts–we didn’t just start teaching and understanding families yesterday), but we both question the wisdom of this move. On top of that anxiety, to be blamed by some for the state of their families’ educational and economic progress (and even happiness) is deeply depressing, and reminds me that this country has had multiple chances to create programs that would assist us in these situations–but then that would be Communism, socialism, entitlements, welfare-state suckling, kindness, humanity, charity…something like that.

Anyway, we noticed some nice folks were considering gathering in front of the homes of school board members who voted against the return of middle schoolers and high schoolers (who are not returning–yet), with signs, chanting, hostility of the apparently gleeful kind, etc. etc. I know of people who say, “What do you read for?” Others are skeptical that anything you get from books isn’t really real, or true, or helpful in navigating life. Maybe. I doubt it. I was immediately put in mind of two very memorable and instructive literary moments when I perused a few of these nice folks’ comments: one is Colonel Sherburn’s speech to the mob in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (censored even now in some schools); the other is a similar scene (surely inspired by Twain’s description) in To Kill a Mockingbird, when Atticus is guarding Tom Robinson at the Maycomb jail. Sure, those examples aren’t exactly what was being threatened, but the dynamics were close enough to help me make sense of and find my footing with these community threats.

Read. It helps. And it’s cheap.

Streaming for Strivers:

A boost to my spirits this morning, and I hope it is to yours.

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