In the 15th Century, an Italian physician and lawyer by the name of Hippolytus de Marsillis wrote about a form of punishment known as “Chinese Water Torture.” Characterized by slow but constant dripping of water on the forehead of a prisoner, the process caused fear and mental deterioration, especially when the droplets fell at random or unexpected times. Often, the process would drive the victim insane.
Today, we are immersed in a world that de Marsillis would understand. Daily, events find us navigating assorted threats to our health and well being while, at the same time, trying to understand and comply with often-contradictory guidance and mandates from those in authority. This process seems relentless … new edicts issued hourly … different threats arising daily. Somewhere, de Marsillis is watching and smiling.
For us, the modern-day equivalent of medieval torture can be seen in the fitful way we have been urged to deal with COVID … wear a mask … you don’t need a mask …it is safe to be out in public … but avoid large crowds. And at long last, when it looked like we might be getting our hands around the whole pandemic thing … the “Delta Variant” made its presence known. That, of course, was not sufficiently maddening … we soon learned that there is something called the “Lambda” permutation circulating out there as well.
Like many folks, we try our best to adapt and stay safe. Preparing for a recent quick trip to the grocery store, for example, we went through our customary checklist … hand sanitizer … face masks … credit cards so we don’t have to touch actual cash. Then, just before heading out the door we were stopped in our tracks … a news bulletin announced a new menace in our midst called “Monkeypox!” Yes … MONKEYPOX! In a year of medical angst, this virus – similar to smallpox – had somehow made its way from central Africa to Dallas, Texas.
Deciding, nonetheless, to chance a run for bread and milk, we ventured out. Returning home unscathed, we breathed a sigh of relief, removed our protective gear, and settled down to watch the local news. Any hopes for a relaxing evening were immediately dashed, though, when the broadcast led off with a report that the mosquito-borne disease known as West Nile Virus had not only shown up in our area, it had claimed its first life of the season.
Set in a New York Police station, “Barney Miller” was a popular television show in the 1970’s and 80’s, with an outstanding cast. One actor, Jack Soo, played the part of Detective Nick Yemana, a character known for sage and witty observations, including one that seems appropriate to the times in which we are living:
Many things look bleak at the moment of occurrence, but at least we ain’t got locusts.
We can hope that Yemana’s optimistic comment will hold true but, just in case, I am heading to Home Depot to see what they might have on hand for dealing with locusts.