Posted in coronavirus, Fragments

Fragments on Fragments 6

For an introduction to this series, look here

Nature loves to hide (or, Things keep their secrets)

Is this an invitation, a challenge or a threat? Unlike Heraclitus, we live in a time in which much of nature has been defined, controlled, dissected. Increasingly we feel that it must be someone’s fault when a force of nature has its way. We human beings are supposed to have such power that only incompetence or malice can have let the disaster happen.

That partly explains the conspiracy theories around the origin of the coronavirus which causes COVID-19. Surely it can’t just have happened, without some human action or inaction? But it did, and this very hidden piece of nature, this virus so small you need an electron microscope to see it, is present and powerful. It has come out of hiding while remaining invisible, the most frightening of enemies, the one you can’t see.

One of the deepest rooted human fears, even more so than the fear of illness, is the fear of the stranger. We are all hard-wired to trust most those whom we know best, sometimes despite the evidence. The pandemic has fed on those fears. Although there is no more reason to suppose that a stranger is carrying the virus than your family and friends, we are all inclined to believe that those we know well are safe to be with, and those we don’t, not so much.

Scientists and doctors are unravelling the secrets of the coronavirus. The more difficult task is for us all to be aware of our own hidden nature. If we allow the pandemic to increase our suspicion of others, to push us into permanent fear of the other, the damage may be as great as that caused by the disease.

Detail from Heirloom, part of the Broken Beauty residency in Southwark cathedral, 2018. Photo credit: Alison Clark

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