Saturday, February 29, 2020


Warsaw 1946, Michael Nash. No surrealist artist has come closer to the ironies of reality. Mary: More than a novel in this photo. Oriana: History (the horror, the horror), human psychology, cultural tradition (fake background paradise) — yes, it's all here — and more.


From the backseat, Jude saying, Mama, I HATE

Republicans, and the way he says HATE,

saying it the way only a seven-year-old can,
saying it like he’s very, very certain,

is plenty disturbing since I’ve never once

heard the word HATE come out of his mouth

until this morning. And there are those
who may be reading this poem,

those people without children, or

those, I should say, who choose not

to have children, you might be impatient
now that Jude has appeared here to make

his meaningful pronouncement, and I

get how tedious it is, listening to those
who choose to have children

drone on about the stupidity of standardized

tests and the difficulty in finding authentically

organic apple juice; but I beg your patience and
ask you to imagine how unnerving it is to be

responsible for these weird beings who rarely

do anything you’d expected when you were

reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting;
how we’re suckered into thinking this kid stuff

is a science when really it’s the most abstract

art form, like you’re standing in a gallery at
MoMA, staring at an aquarium in which float

three basketballs, and the piece is titled

Aquarium with Three Basketballs,

and you’re looking at others in the gallery

considering the basketballs and they don’t look

as if they’re having some cross-eyed internal

struggle, and you’re sweating a little

and embarrassed, thinking,

There’s a message here that I’m not getting,
which is what I feel like, often, to have a child,

and what I ponder in this moment; whether I’ve

blown it again, as Jude, nicknamed by his teachers
“The Radiating Joy Machine,” boy of peculiar light

and unusual kindness, has arrived this morning

in the backseat of the car, belting out the word

HATE and sounding like he absolutely means it.
And there are more practical difficulties beyond

what could be viewed as the self-indulgently

philosophical, such as Jude’s father, my ex-husband,

who’s given me a speech the day before about

not pushing our politics on Jude and letting him

make up his own mind when he’s old enough

to understand the complexities of the issues.

And, on principle, surely, I agree,
though I know another factor must be

that Jude’s father is now married to a woman

who’s half Cuban and from Miami, who’s not

thrilled with Jude piping up about republicans and

booing every time a GOP candidate appears on TV.
And that’s what you call the realpolitik in action

when it comes to divorce, wherein the rubber hits

the “blended” family’s road. But since I’m not
half Cuban and not from Miami, I don’t pretend I

can speak to the cultural pressure and loyalties of

the single-issue voter, though secretly I want to say

to my ex-husband, the die-hardest of liberals –

something I’ll always love about him – I want to say,
Really? When your beloved aunt is gay, as is my

brother, whose husband is a political exile from

Colombia? When Jude has a medical issue that
might someday be cured by stem cell therapy,

as insurance drains our paychecks every month

while refusing to pay for a single, useful thing?

Really? But deep down, I know he’s right. If Jude

has come to HATE, it’s probably come through

me, even though I try so hard to love the sinner
even when the sin is the most fucockulous

interpretation of the Old Testament

that makes me want to grab every Christian

evangelical by the neck and shake them till their
brains kick in. Which makes me think of my friend

Matt, a boy I had a crush on in high school, who’s

now a corporate attorney in Houston; Matt,
who’s tracked me down on the Internet and we’ve

taken to flaming each other about politics by e-mail;

how recently he sent me his beautiful family’s

Christmas card, and honestly they don’t look evil,
and Matt says he’d rather choose whom to help with

his money than have it flushed on social programs

that clearly don’t work. And while he doesn’t convince

me, I grudgingly acknowledge this point of view and
concede that not all Republicans, even tax attorney

in Texas, are necessarily Earth-raping titans

with $7,000 shower curtains, that they may have

actual convictions, holding them as dearly as
I do my own. So finally, I tell Jude we might

STRONGLY DISAGREE with people’s opinions,

but we try to love the people themselves. Then I

tell him briefly about a guy named Gandhi and

another guy named Martin Luther King and how
the progressive mind always triumphs in the end,

and he’s maybe paying attention, though he’s tricky

that way and glazes over often, as you can imagine.
But he’s satisfied for the moment, squinting through

the foggy car window, and I feel better as it’s morning,

with the sun just poking up over the canopied road
as we drive quietly through our tidy neighborhood

of houses with doorway flags promoting pineapples

and football teams and whatever else my neighbors

feel the need to advertise, and I’m thinking

maybe I got it right this time,
 maybe I did okay at least; 
this doesn’t have to 
be the thing Jude talks about 
someday in therapy. But with kids, you never know,

as our present is busy becoming
 their future, every minute, 
every day, while they’re working as hard as they can

to perfect the obstinate and beautiful mystery

that every soul ends up being to every other.

~ Erin Belieu, 2015


I like the idea of saying “I strongly disagree” versus “I hate.” Distance is said to be the secret of art; I suspect it’s also the secret of almost everything else, except for romantic love. And, come to think of it, even romantic love can use a bit of distance now and then; a moment of stepping back and surveying what’s happening. 

Lee Zimmerman


~ “How we talk about war is an early measure of whether we’re drifting to war, and whether we’re on guard against the manufacturing or stretching of reasons for it. It’s a historical constant: Carefully chosen euphemisms and deceptive sentence structures are routinely deployed to drum up public support and pave the way to battle. And it’s still happening.
Take, for example, a widely accepted catchall: “defense.” Last month, the Defense Department called the assassination in Iran a defensive act after President Trump said he was “call[ing] for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history” and “eliminat[ing] the Defense sequester.”

A lot of time and tweets are spent in defense of “defense,” even when we’re talking about offense. “The word ‘defense’ is a euphemism for being prepared to wage war or waging war,” says John Donnelly, senior defense reporter at CQ Roll Call and president of the Military Reporters and Editors Association. “‘Defense’ includes offense, and that’s a great example of an official euphemism that has just become an accepted term, even though it cloaks the more complicated, harsher reality.”

“Defense” hasn’t always been the Armed Forces’ official umbrella. The euphemism was born in 1949, when the War Department, aptly named, was renamed the Defense Department. In the wake of World War II and the United Nations’ declaration against wars of aggression, lawmakers looking for a more sanitized word settled on the self-justifying “defense,” a more palatable frame for the business of battle.

“We always call it the ‘defense’ budget, but we should call it the ‘military’ budget,” says Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, whose son was killed in combat in Iraq. “The ‘defense’ budget is the amount of money we’re giving to our military for a variety of things that aren’t necessarily defense, but if you call it the ‘defense’ budget, it’s substantially more benign than if you call it the ‘military’ budget. And this is all accepted language.”

“‘Collateral damage’ is another example,” Donnelly says. “It’s a euphemism for accidentally killing innocent men, women, and children,” carefully coined “to provide an antiseptic way to describe mutilated and dead bodies.”

War euphemisms are big business, burned into us by the soft substitution of hard truth about torture with the clinical-sounding “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Remember that linguistic move of the Bush-Cheney era, mirrored by the media? It took a long time for the New York Times to discontinue and tersely disavow its default to “enhanced” euphemisms. The paper’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, half-apologized for it in hindsight, and he deserves half-credit for doing so. (That didn’t prevent Baquet from excoriating Mother Jones recently for our open resistance to false equivalencies in public life, calling our stance “untenable, nonjournalistic, immoral.” As if euphemizing torture, under the guise of rigorous restraint and neutrality, were journalistic and moral.)

Stare long enough at the mastheads and language of media and you begin to see the memos and marketing of the military. The euphemism “defense” gets reinforced by the media to this day: Almost every major newsroom has a “defense” reporter by name; in recent weeks Politico and the Washington Post were recruiting “defense” reporters, a beat that makes intuitive sense—it mirrors and monitors the Defense Department. After the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, job listings for reporters by that title began popping up. Ditto “national security” reporters, all in lockstep with state designations.

“The first casualty, when war comes, is truth,” goes the timeless saying by Hiram Johnson, the progressive senator from California during World War I. Already in the 1910s, “people were aware of the linguistic distortions that journalists and the government could work on reality,” says Geoff Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Information.

Nunberg traces war euphemisms to the Crimean War, when the photographer Roger Fenton was dispatched to “make these photographs of cheerful children” and conceal soldiers’ suffering in the 1850s. “That’s when you get the first war correspondent and you begin to get euphemisms like ‘casualty,’ which just means loss to chance. That’s why insurance companies are ‘casualty’ companies. But it’s in the Crimean War that ‘casualty’ comes to be used for the injured and the dead in wartime.

Architects of war are always, throughout history, architects of language (or served by those who are). Henry Kissinger, as secretary of state, green-lighted the Indonesian invasion of East Timor by leaning on language as a tool of cover-up: “It depends on how we construe” and contort the language of the Foreign Assistance Act, Kissinger secretly told the dictator Suharto in condoning the invasion in a now-declassified State Department telegram. It happened when Gen. Maxwell Taylor’s euphemism “controlled escalation” was trotted out to soft-pedal the uncontrolled arming of South Vietnam. And it was freshly evident in the torture memos drafted by John Yoo, a top legal appointee under President George W. Bush.

A corollary of “defense” is “readiness.” “If you say this thing we want to buy will help ‘readiness,’ everyone just salutes smartly because who’s against readiness?” Donnelly says. “The word used to have a precise meaning about measures of readiness—numbers of people, levels of training, status of equipment. But the meaning has grown to the point where, because it means everything, it means nothing.”

“People use ‘readiness’ to describe anything military. The reason that’s dangerous is it’s designed to make people stop thinking.”

Public persuasion is achieved not just through word choice; it’s handled through sentence structure. Take, for example, the passive construction commonly used by the military and media: “An airstrike was conducted.”

Who conducted the strike? Wrong question: It was conducted. By itself, grammatically. 

Agentless actions and attributionless strikes reduce the likelihood of public pushback and journalistic digging. “The passive is the apparatus that language gives us to emphasize the victims affected by an action rather than its perpetrators,” Nunberg says. It’s a time-tested device, flagged by George Orwell in his landmark essay “Politics and the English Language” and the stomach-turning pages of the military manipulation log Public Affairs: The Military and the Media, 1962–1968, an inventory of the ways the military coerces the media into collaboration.

Military language creeps into everyday speech, giving us everything from “trench coat” (yours for just $700 at Brooks Brothers) to “Jeep,” from the initials G.P. on the sides of general-purpose vehicles in World War II. The Vietnam War gave us “A-team,” from Operational Detachment Alpha. And World War II created what lands on our radar—ra(dio) d(etection) a(nd) r(anging). 

War weaponizes political speech, giving us “bombshell” reports that leave us “shell-shocked” and “blown away,” “on blast” with “incoming fire” for bad tweets, some of it “friendly fire” that causes “collateral damage” if we’re not “on guard” against “self-inflicted wounds” in the “fallout.” At least we can “take cover” on other sites in our “arsenal” of commentary—say, a blog. Or hit the “nuclear option”: delete Twitter.

“When the country is at war as long as we have been, inevitably phrases and just ways of thinking migrate from the military to the civilian realm,” Donnelly says.

War euphemisms manifest in workplaces, too, where “rank-and-files” take “marching orders” from bosses whose “warpath” we try to avoid while telling ourselves to “soldier on” and “be a trooper” in “uphill battles” to, say, unionize industries, even when it’s a “long shot” and we’re told to “lower our sights.” (“Long shot” derives from a rifle’s long-distance shot. “Lower your sights” comes from lowering a rifle’s sights or scope.) We’ve got tech “boot camps” and fitness “boot camps,” cooking “boot camps” and chess “boot camps,” and it’s not “over the top” to say war is our biggest supplier of idiomatic expressions—“over the top” comes from climbing over the top of sandbags at the lip of trenches to launch an attack.

Military speech is so ingrained in civilian life that our best “line of attack” in 2020 is not just to critically consume the news, but to look for the ways language frames it. Certain warspeak is desirable: Culture wars are often as lethal as military ones, and battlefields need naming. But when it sedates us, numbing us to the consequences of pumping bullets into chests, or violating the Constitution’s war powers clause, it’s time for clearer words.


I often wonder if everything human comes down to language. Not only what is said, but how...which words, which grammatical forms — that an examination of how we talk about things could reveal deep, and surprising,  unexpected truths about us, our assumptions and intentions. The examination of how military language has permeated everything we talk about is a revelation of sorts. In this process I can't help but conclude that framing everything in military terminology inevitably shapes and reshapes our thinking — our basic perspective and assumptions about the world. And that has everything to do with our choices and actions.

I was particularly interested in the discussion of euphemisms and the passive, both giving a sense of distance and impersonality, that these acts of war are certainly not your responsibility, and certainly not subject to moral evaluation. We're not Waging war, we're Watching it. And this sense of distance and moral irrelevance has only increased. With the Vietnam war we saw all those flag draped coffins coming home, and images of war on a personal, individual, human level. Each of us can remember some of those indelible images — the naked child running towards us, burning with napalm, the moment a man is executed by a sudden shot to the head. Such images were powerful testimonies that created reactions and shaped attitudes. Recent military action can be viewed live at times, but without that intimate perspective. Missile strikes can look simply like fireworks, divorced from human suffering. And we no longer see those coffins coming home.


It’s a frightening article. I'm particularly grateful to you for having reminded the reader that the Vietnam war was not censored by the military the way the current wars are, and yes, those brutal images were indelible. The “Defense” establishment decided that it can’t be allowed: the public mustn’t know the truth about war. Information must be strictly controlled. Alas, they seem to have succeeded.

And meanwhile our everyday discourse has become oddly militarized, just at a time when we could certainly use more terms of affection and a more friendly and complex view of life (and even war) than just winning and losing.


“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.” ~ Eugène Ionesco


So true. But it would take great anguish to unite America now. I can't bear to imagine how much suffering would have to happen.


And will happen. Each day I am more convinced.

Love the Rhino. Loved that play as well.



~ “How did a poor and socially awkward ex-governess named Charlotte and her even more awkward sister, Emily, who kept house for their father in a parsonage on a Yorkshire moor far from the literary circles of London, come to write novels and poems that outshone nearly every other 19th-century British novel and poem by dint of being more alive? In an essay on Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights published in 1925, Virginia Woolf bears witness to this miracle:

‘As we open Jane Eyre once more we cannot stifle the suspicion that we shall find her world of imagination as antiquated, mid-Victorian, and out of date as the parsonage on the moor, a place only to be visited by the curious, only preserved by the pious. So we open Jane Eyre; and in two pages every doubt is swept clean from our minds.’

If Charlotte’s novels keep up a stiff wind, Emily’s one novel, Wuthering Heights, is a thunderstorm. Her characters, even the ghosts, Woolf writes, have “such a gust of life that they transcend reality.” (Like most readers, Woolf ignores the youngest Brontë sister, Anne, a lesser novelist and poet, and the Brontë brother, Branwell, a failed poet and artist turned alcoholic.) And just think, Woolf went on to write in a more famous essay, A Room of One’s Own, what Charlotte might have produced had Victorian mores not corseted her potential.

Woolf seizes on a passage in Jane Eyre in which she believes she hears Charlotte breaking out of Jane’s voice to lecture the reader about women’s exclusion from the “busy world” and “practical experience,” and to lament the confinement of their talents “to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.” According to Woolf, this shows that Charlotte’s imagination, however bold, is also constricted—that she “will never get her genius expressed whole and entire. Her books will be deformed and twisted. She will write in a rage where she should write calmly.” Charlotte’s writing would have been even better, Woolf says, had she “possessed say three hundred [pounds] a year.”

But Woolf gets it exactly wrong, thereby missing what makes the Brontë story so satisfying. The sisters’ social and economic disadvantages didn’t hold them back. Charlotte and Emily explored—and exploited—the prison-house of gender with unprecedented clear-sightedness. It so happens that the sisters had a good deal of “practical experience,” and they didn’t like it one bit. Pushed out into the world, they came home as fast as they could, and in their retreat from society found the autonomy to cultivate their altogether original voices. Those forays into the marketplace of female labor, though, gave them their best material.

The Brontë sisters were women of their class and time—educated, impoverished, likely destined to spinsterhood—although with a twist. Their childhood was sui generis. Motherless since they were very young, the Brontës enjoyed the benign neglect of their busy father and made the most of their freedom to develop elaborate fantasy worlds. They read everything they could; spent long afternoons on the moor that began at their back door; invented exotic kingdoms with voluminous histories and political intrigues; put on plays only they would see; issued magazines only they would read; and sewed novels and poems into miniature books written in script so tiny that no adult in the household could decipher them. 

Nonetheless, since their aging father occupied his parsonage on the sufferance of a quarrelsome congregation, they lacked security and had to find a profession. That could only mean, for the Brontës, becoming governesses or teachers of the children of the gentry.

Charlotte’s first teaching job lasted three years. She deemed the work “wretched bondage” and the students “fat-headed oafs.” Next, she and Anne tried governessing. During Charlotte’s first of two governess stints (it lasted two months), she discovered to her horror that she had been reduced to a glorified nanny. “I see now more clearly than I have ever done before that a private governess has no existence, is not considered as a living and rational being except as connected with the wearisome duties she has to fulfill,” Charlotte wrote Emily. Anne managed to hold her second governess post for five years. The misanthropic Emily worked briefly as a teacher in a girls’ school, where she once told her students that she preferred the school dog to them.

Charlotte and Emily both taught for the second time at the Pensionnat Heger in Brussels, where they were also students. Emily quit after a couple of months and moved back into the parsonage, becoming the family housekeeper. Charlotte hung on a year longer, mostly because she fell in love with her teacher and colleague Constantin Heger. A brilliant, charismatic professor, he was the first male non-Brontë to recognize their powers and treat them as intellectual peers.

He was also married—to Charlotte’s employer, the directrice of the school. Heger lavished a flirtatious, continental affection on his star female pupils, especially Charlotte, something “the stiff-necked Brontës may well have found surprising,” writes Claire Harman, who homes in on this interlude in Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart. Charlotte, she says, was “love-starved,” and surely overwhelmed by Heger’s intense interest in her. Whatever passed between her and him probably “took place largely in her own head.” But Heger’s wife noticed Charlotte’s “heightened state of excitement” and began to monitor her closely. Heger grew distant. After many months of this, Charlotte quit. Back home, she toyed with the idea of starting a school in the parsonage with Emily and Anne, but poured her energy into increasingly desperate letters to Heger. He replied intermittently and formally.

The Brontë school never opened. Instead, Charlotte wrote the first novel she tried to publish, The Professor, a veiled (and flawed) account of her sojourn in Brussels that didn’t appear in print during her lifetime. But in her next novel, Jane Eyre, and her last, Villette, she put her work history to spectacular use. She expressed her outrage at the degraded status of governesses and teachers. She condemned the isolation and vulnerability of a woman who goes into the world to make her own way. She let loose her feelings for Heger, electromagnetizing the novels with sensuality.

It is Jane Eyre’s ambiguous role at Thornfield Hall as quasi-equal, quasi-child-care provider that makes her such an astute observer of both the upper and the serving classes. Through Lucy Snowe, the orphaned narrator of Villette, who teaches at a girls’ school in a country that is clearly Belgium, and who is in love with her teacher, we learn what it means to have a job turn toxic when an employer begins to scheme against an employee. Both Jane and Lucy struggle to draw the line with seductive superiors who persistently violate professional boundaries, for good and for ill. In short, had Charlotte been in possession of 300 pounds a year, she could never have written novels that startled her readers then with their frank depiction of middle-class women’s working conditions and continue to edify those of us who also have to earn our own living.

In their fiction, the Brontës scrutinized more than just the kind of drudgery that paid. They also filled their stories with the kind that didn’t. In The Brontë Cabinet, Deborah Lutz calls attention to the mixed meanings of 19th-century housework in the sisters’ lives and novels, especially needlework, with which ladies were expected to keep their hands busy at all times. Charlotte was indignant when her first mistress demanded that she add sewing to child care, requiring her to make doll clothes and stitch hems on sheets. Caroline Helstone, in Charlotte’s Shirley, is wearied to distraction by having to embroider and mend stockings all day. And yet sewing also gives Brontë characters a pretext for thinking their own thoughts without being censured for idleness. As a governess, Jane Eyre hides behind her stitching when she wants to watch rather than talk. The title character in Anne’s Agnes Grey, another governess, is happiest sewing with her sister by the fire at home. The Brontë sisters liked to sew together too, while they discussed their works in progress just as they had as children.

Woolf asserts that Emily, alone among all female writers besides Jane Austen, rose above the “limitations of sex” to write with a magnificent indifference to her femininity. (“Wuthering Heights might have been written by an eagle,” G. K. Chesteron once remarked.) It is true that Emily observed her male characters and their world with cold eyes and uncommon understanding, granting moral complexity and moments of grace to the nastiest of them—and the men of Wuthering Heights could be exceedingly nasty. But Woolf, along with well over a century’s worth of critics, failed to spot the feminine protest that Emily hid in plain sight. At the heart of her novel is a domestic servant, Nelly Dean, who, Lutz astutely observes, “is given the agency to frame, reshape, and knit together the life plots of those around her, something like the novelist herself.”

Nelly is the trusted housekeeper who tells a visitor, Mr. Lockwood, the story of the destruction of two families by the vengeful foundling Heathcliff. (As it happens, she sews while she talks.) Critics used either to praise Nelly as a woman of moral integrity or to dismiss her as a simpleton; in any case, they treated her as negligible. It has only belatedly dawned on readers that Nelly is an unreliable narrator. Read in a certain light, her story seems to be hinting that it was she who sabotaged the families as much as or even more than Heathcliff. If so, she did this by skillfully deploying the two main weapons of the household help: obscurity and ubiquity. Brontë scholars now keep themselves busy teasing out those hints and debating Nelly’s motives. Did she just make a lot of bad calls, such as (to take one instance) withholding information that could have prevented the tragic separation of the lovers Cathy and Heathcliff? Or was she—raised alongside Heathcliff as a foster child, and then, like him, forced into service—exacting her revenge?

Nelly Dean, the fan-fiction novel among the latest collection of Brontë books, sidesteps the question by relegating Cathy and Heathcliff to the background and positing a forbidden love between Nelly and Cathy’s older brother, Hindley Earnshaw, and altogether turning the housekeeper into a working-class martyr and feminist heroine. Emily would have scoffed. She had no particular compassion for victims and was too good a writer to believe in heroines. 

But being a housekeeper herself, she would have been amused, perhaps even pleased, that Nelly’s perplexing behavior was invisible for so long and eludes interpretation even now. Emily relished invisibility. She was furious when Charlotte came across a notebook filled with her poetry and wanted to publish it. That the poet Ellis Bell was Emily Brontë came out only after her death, at age 30, one year after the publication of Wuthering Heights. She didn’t intend unsubtle readers to see Nelly any more than she wanted them to see her.

A cemetery in Yorkshire; Dave Bonta
And therein lies at least one solution to the Brontë mystery. The sisters hid their subversiveness behind housewifery, and used their seeming eccentricity to excuse their shirking of social niceties. Early on, when their old housekeeper grew too lame to work, they took over her duties rather than let a stranger into their house. “I manage the ironing and keep the rooms clean,” Charlotte wrote a friend. “Emily does the baking and attends to the kitchen. We are such odd animals that we prefer this mode of contrivance to having a new face among us.” Emily let her mind roam while she did her chores. “Whatever she was doing,” a Brontë servant once said, “ironing or baking, she had her pencil with her.”

Pace Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, life in their “attic” didn’t make the Brontës near-madwomen. It made them writers—admittedly, almost the same thing. The parsonage offered an alternative to wage slavery, and keeping house for their oblivious father provided cover for the “secret power and fire” that Charlotte attributed to Emily but that infused all three sisters to differing degrees.  

If they chafed, they had only to think of their brother. They may have envied Branwell’s formal education and professional opportunities, but when delusions of artistic grandeur cost him job after job, he came home in disgrace and drank himself to death. His sisters had the female prerogative of quitting earlier and living quietly—at least until Emily, then Anne, contracted tuberculosis, possibly from Branwell, and died too.

The acolyte who learned the Brontës’ lesson best was Emily Dickinson, who read both Emily and Charlotte avidly and called Emily “gigantic.” Dickinson’s biographer Alfred Habegger asserts that for her, reading an 1883 life of Emily Brontë “effectively validated her idea of power based in weakness.” But that, too, gets it wrong. Charlotte and Emily Brontë were never weak. They didn’t choose their seclusion because their femininity denied them careers and public life, or not only for that reason. The Brontës lived as they did because they needed privacy to write their extraordinary but scandalizing novels—alternately extolled as having no “rival among modern productions” (as one critic said of Jane Eyre) and attacked for a “low tone of behavior” and “coarseness” (charges leveled against all three sisters’ works). As for homely tasks like baking and cleaning, the authors may have done them only faute de mieux, but the work anchored their writing in a reality that had never been quite so material to fiction before. It also probably helped them stay sane in the process.

Yorkshire moors


I agree that it was exactly the poverty of the Brontes' circumstance that allowed and fueled their brilliance. Their situation was stark. They lived in a damp, unhealthy house, constrained by poverty and economic instability,  benignly  neglected by their sole parent, a father preoccupied with his pastoral duties. Both the schools they attended and the positions they filled later as governesses, were mean, confining, cruel and humiliating. Emily had the least patience with all of this, and spent the shortest time away from home. Charlotte had a more measured truce with the outside world, spent more time there, was better able to manage outside their shared home base. She even eventually married, and was dead in less than a year, from a complication of pregnancy, while her siblings died of that century's plague, tuberculosis. All that damaged, limited, and eventually ended their lives were things typical to their sex and class and the defining medical nemesis of their times. And yet there is that brilliant miracle of their art, that is still stunning, still relevant, still so very much alive and part of our culture.

I think that brilliance, their singular art, is directly related to their limited situation and to the exuberant, unlimited freedom they had physically, largely unsupervised on the moors, and most importantly, in their rich imaginations and fine intelligence, used to create the miniature handmade books, the elaborate histories of imagined characters, the intense fantasy life they enjoyed, the world they shared and created together. I think this sibling circle was the strongest and most important element in their lives, lasting to their ends, providing the grounds for their creative brilliance, and it was their restrictive situation that made this creative brilliance both necessary and possible.

We treasure Jane Eyre because we recognize her. A plain woman in a humble position, she has unbending and unrelenting integrity. She will not be duped, she will not be forced. She is also intelligent and eminently sensible, as well as generous and spirited. We swiftly, as noted, within a few pages, identify with her and see her as a champion to admire and emulate. Her passions are not destructive, like the stormy characters of Rochester and his attic  prisoner, who is remarkable in being the only character who achieves revenge, a kind of justice that makes the other characters' resolutions possible.  This is revenge not sweet, but justifying; without it, no one wins.

It is a mistake to see Heathcliff as the originator of all the destruction in Emily's  strange and fiery work. Like elementals, Cathy and Heathcliff exist beyond ordinary humanity — more alive, wilder, more passionate than we can imagine...mesmerizing for their very extremity, the intensity of their living, flaming like lightning over those barren moors. And, like lightning, burning a path through all it touches. Cathy, Hindley, Linton and Nelly all contribute to the consuming storm of tragedy. Always at the core, the storm's eye, is the extremity of passion, like a fire so fierce it tears a hole in the fabric of human society, leaving only ghosts and ash behind.

We must also remember the story doesn't end with Cathy and Heathcliff. She dies, and he is determined to pursue his revenge through the next generation. His machinations cause a lot of pain, and are immeasurably cruel. But they don't succeed: the next generation moves beyond to find a new balance. Subjected to the wild power and animosity leveled against them, they manage to civilize themselves, to recreate what it means to be human, to love and heal. The novel ends with this literal regeneration.

These novels I read so early in childhood have been from that moment an integral part of my thought and imagination in ways no others have...with the exception of Dostoyevsky,  met more in my own adolescence.


Ah, I needed this reminder about how the new generation heals the conflict — how it civilizes itself. It’s so easy to remember only the drama of Catherine and Heathcliff, and forget that this drama is ultimately transcended. Wuthering Heights has a happy ending after all!


“When you reach my age, you realize you couldn’t have done things very much better or much worse than you did them in the first place.” ~ Borges


Yes, that's one of the benefits of aging: the growing self-acceptance, self-forgiveness. Maybe you could have done better with more money or the right connections; but circumstances being such as they were, you did the best you could.


He was the favorite Star Trek character for millions. He often represented wisdom in contrast to Capt Kirk's machismo. His character elevated the intellectual and moral level of the whole series.

When a certain love object in the past told me that he preferred Captain Kirk to Mr. Spock, I realized I was with the wrong man. 



~ “It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. We were said to be approaching the demise of a certain type of swaggering, predatory masculinity: let’s call him Homo Obnoxious. His habitat was shrinking: it seemed as if men who defined themselves by devaluing women, putting down men who didn’t think like them and treating sexual relations — and most everything else — as power-tripping performances might be ready for mounting in a Museum of Masculinity Past.

Reality check: Homo Obnoxious is moving into the White House. The president-elect is signaling to boys across the country what it means to be a successful man. He gets more thuggish with each passing day, appointing knuckle-dragging members of his tribe to run the country. Meanwhile, alt-right dudes who cope with masculine anxiety by proclaiming superiority over women and people of color are feeling validated, enjoying influence they could hardly dream of a year ago. As one self-identified "neomasculine" blogger put it, “I’m in a state of exuberance that we now have a President who rates women on a 1-10 scale in the same way that we do and evaluates women by their appearance and feminine attitude.”

Heffernan points out that if we teach kids that success is all about individual performance, they grow up to be what she calls “heroic soloists.” In relating to others, they tend to focus on what’s in it for them, suppressing the instinct to be generous or share credit or empathy. Our president-elect, steeped in the values of self-interest capitalism and competition in everything from football and beauty pageants to reality TV tournaments, is the epitome of a heroic soloist — one who has been rewarded richly in celebrity, power and money.

Teaching kids the value of creative collaboration and offering rational guidance on sexuality or gender relations at school has to be a part of cultivating a different path to manhood.

If they don’t have blueprints of masculinity that allow for confidence and strength without domination in the playground and in the classroom, boys grow up thinking that a hero is somebody who is in everything solely for himself. This does not mean that we send male students to re-education boot camps, as certain right-wing pundits have warned is the true agenda of coastal elites. It means that adults take it upon themselves to guide students, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity, in imagining ways of being men that are not destructive to themselves and others. It means not shaming them because they are male, but rather encouraging them to develop pride in characteristics and values that are socially beneficial, like putting others before themselves, honesty and strength in caring and self-restraint. That would be a start.

Challenging sexual assault is important, but [young men] need to learn much more than “no means no”: they need guidance in emotional honesty and intimacy, the challenges of navigating relationships and masculine ideals to strive for in which cultivating large numbers of women as hookups and drinking into oblivion are not the marks of masculine status. Beyond this, they need to see that life offers them more than the prospect of being a loser in the workforce that awaits them when schooling is done, and they also need opportunities to see that work in areas like caregiving, for example, are rich in positive masculine values. When a male nurse can be viewed as stronger and sexier than a Wall Street parasite, we will have gotten somewhere.

There has been a lot of recent research on how online porn and video games are helping to inculcate alienation and destructive patterns in boys and young men. Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo's book Man (Dis)Connected): How Technology has Sabotaged What it Means to be Male provides insight onto how Homo Obnoxious gets his brain wired.

Zimbardo discusses how young male brains can become shaped at a cellular level in ways that inhibit their social development through excessive time spent on gaming and porn, even losing their ability to read the social cues of face-to-face contact. Many, he points out, are drawn to these realms as a seemingly safe and easy way to gain a sense of achievement that may not be available in the winner-take-all competition of school and the workforce. These virtual worlds are tailored to provide an addictive system of goals and rewards that produce guys who are afraid of intimacy. They end up eschewing real-world experiments that might result in rejection, and real-time spontaneity that leaves them disoriented and frightened. Drained of self-confidence, they search for narratives of manhood that provide at least the simulacrum of power and dignity.

As America’s boys see Trump acting out, some will feel their own worst instincts validated. But for others, the idea of “being a man” might mean distancing themselves from his kind of behavior. I do believe that men—and women—are less likely to assert power by denigrating and dominating others when they have a sense of real agency in their lives. It may not be helpful to talk about the end of men, or the rising dominance of women, but rather to remember that for all of us—men, women and transgender—our ability to manifest prosocial behavior depends a lot on having a sense of power and purpose in our lives. Growing inequality, the gig economy, strangling oligopolies, widespread poverty, a shrinking middle class, and government policies geared to appease the rich do not promote this outcome.

For those who reject Donald Trump, figuring out how to achieve a better life for everyone in our society instead of condemning “deplorables” is, in my opinion, a more productive way to go. The co-creation of a more peaceful and fulfilling world requires our most dedicated efforts in imagination, connection and listening to those who do not share our particular vision. Homo Obnoxious will only have the last word if we forget our common humanity.

boy angel at La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

“Be not solitary, be not idle.” ~ The final words of Richard Burton's "The Anatomy of Melancholy.”


I think it's possible to have a lot of solitude as long as one is productive. Idleness is a torture to me, and work is as natural as breathing.

Bowl with Human Feet, Predynastic Egypt, 3900–3650 B.C.

INSTEAD OF YELLING AT THE KIDS (yes, again, but a better article)

~ “First, know there is a difference between yelling to protect and yelling in anger.

“Anger itself is an emotion designed to change behavior,” said Dr. Joseph Shrand, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer of Riverside Community Care in Massachusetts who wrote “Outsmarting Anger: 7 Strategies for Defusing Our Most Dangerous Emotion.” “Sometimes we yell to protect a kid, and that is a different kind of yelling. That’s an alarm. You’re raising your voice to alert your child that there is a danger.”

If you’re yelling at your kid because he is about to cross a street without looking, or she’s about to touch something scalding, or you’re attempting to prevent any of the million other accidents kids seem capable of getting into on any given day, go ahead. Your job is to keep your child safe. Sometimes yelling helps you do that.

When you feel the urge to yell in anger, tap your forehead instead.

Does that sound like an odd alternative? Here’s why it’s worth a try: “Anger comes from the limbic system, which is the ancient, emotional part of the brain,” Shrand said. The more thinking, rational part of the brain is the prefrontal cortex, he explained, which helps moderate decision-making and how you behave socially. It happens to be located right behind your forehead.

To avoid yelling, you really want to “keep it frontal, don’t go limbic,” Shrand said. Which is why he recommends putting your hand on your forehead — even for just a second or two — and taking a deep breath in and out when you feel the urge to yell.

“Ask yourself, ‘What do I really want to do and see next? Why am I angry?’” he said. Just that quick check-in — and physical reminder that you’re aiming for a more rational, measured response to your child’s behavior — can help squash the urge to scream.

Or cluck like a chicken.

Carla Naumburg, a clinical social worker and author of “How To Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids,” likes this alternative to yelling: pause and do literally anything else. Take a breath, stay silent, hop up and down, put your hands flat on a counter to try and feel grounded. Or get silly instead.

“I have clucked like a chicken,” Naumburg told HuffPost, “because it helps get the energy out and because it’s so ridiculous it kind of snaps us all out of it.

Another option? If you feel like you absolutely must yell, at least keep it vague rather than saying really pointed, hurtful things. “You can kind of yell without saying anything awful,” said Jennifer Kolari, a child and family therapist and author of “Connected Parenting: How to Raise A Great Kid.” Go for “Gah, I am so angry!”-type stuff, where you’re basically not really saying much. And you’re certainly not saying anything particularly mean or harmful.

Channel your best “teacher voice.”

Not yelling at your kids does NOT mean you let them off the hook for behavior you don’t approve of. You can and should totally speak up, but calmly and sternly. Kolari often likens it to being on a plane with turbulence: If the pilot got up and walked around to ask how everyone was doing in a very sweet, soft voice, you’d probably be confused about what was going on and what was expected of you. Likewise, you’d probably freak out if the pilot started screaming. If the pilot spoke calmly but firmly and made it clear that you need to put your seatbelt on right now, you’d do it.

When you scream and yell at your kid, they focus more on your anger than on the lesson you’re trying to impart.

“You undermine yourself when you yell,” Kolari said. “Find that authoritative voice — the one a teacher would use in the classroom. It’s far more effective.”

Remember: Repeating things over and over doesn’t mean you’re failing as a parent... means you’re doing your job. In many ways, a parents’ role is to act like their children’s frontal lobes, which don’t fully develop until they’re in their 20s. They need to hear some things over and over until they really get it, Kolari said. So repetition doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re failing or that they’re being undisciplined. It means you’re doing your job as a parent and repeating the lessons they need to hear as they develop.

Also important to keep in mind? You will yell at times. We all do.

“If you raised a child who’d never been yelled at, you’d mess them up anyway,” chuckled Kolari. When they got yelled at by a friend, or coach or boss down the line, they’d just totally crumble. So if you feel bad about an interaction you had, apologize. But don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s important to have compassion for your kiddo and for yourself.

“When your relationship is strong — when your connection with your child is strong — it’s kind of like giving them emotional shock absorbers,” Kolari said. So if and when you do yell, they can bounce back.” ~


Of course no parent is a saint, and there will be lapses. As the article points out, that’s not the end of the world. It’s just that yelling should not be habitual. And after a meltdown, let’s hope the parent quickly regains composure and explains to the child why some behavior is wrong. 

Alas, some children get yelled at all the time, usually in a blaming, derogatory fashion. That amounts to emotional child abuse, and is likely to have long-term negative consequences.



~ “[Ezekiel] hears the voice of God more often (93 times) than any other prophet, and the way God addresses him as ‘son of man’ or ‘mortal’ is also unique. Ezekiel experiences a variety of other auditory phenomena, including command hallucinations which are not described in any other prophet, 3:3 ‘He said to me; mortal eat this scroll that I give to you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.’

Even the rabbis thought it was strange that Ezekiel actually ate the scroll and they explained it by saying he was ingesting the wisdom of the Torah (law). Other examples of command hallucinations which are carried out are the shaving of Ezekiel’s head (5:1) which would have gone against priestly prohibitions to shave.

[from another source: Ezekiel heard a voice commanding him to lie on the right side of his body for 390 days then switch to his left side for 40 more days. A voice also told him to eat food cooked with human excrement.]

. . . Ezekiel also hears people gossiping about him by the walls, 33:30 ‘As for you mortal your people who talk about you by the walls and at the doors of the house say to one another each to a neighbor “Come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord”.’ Ezekiel hears the conversations God was having with others, 9:5’ To others he said within my hearing “pass through the city and kill, your eyes shall not spare”.’ Sometimes this voice can be loud, 9:1 ‘Then he cried within my hearing with a loud voice saying “draw near your executioners of the city”.’

Like many individuals with schizophrenia, Ezekiel does his best not to listen to these malign voices, 8:18 ‘and though they cry within my hearing with a loud voice, I will not listen to them.’ In his visions he also sometimes hears voices, as for example in the ‘Chariot Vision’, 12:5 ‘And there came a voice from above the dome of their heads’. Also in these visions, as well as voices Ezekiel hears non-verbal auditory phenomena, 1:33 ‘each of the creatures had two wings covering its body. When I heard the sound of the wings like the sound of mighty waters like the thunder of the almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army’. No other prophet hears command hallucinations, conversations with third parties about himself, hears voices in their visions, or has non-verbal auditory experiences. All these auditory phenomena are said to be characteristic of schizophrenia.” ~

Gustave Doré: The Valley of Dry Bones


But at least we got some art and poetry out of these hallucinations (and some bad horror movies). Below is Gustav Doré’s “Valley of Dry Bones.” Remember that the bones have to put on flesh and be re-animated with the “breath of life.” Hence the whole awkward idea of resurrection in flesh, which made sense to the ancient Israeli’s with their emphasis on life = breath, but not really to those ancient Greeks who were mystically inclined and tended to favor the spiritual realm (possibly an Egyptian influence).

And rather than in heaven, the resurrected dead would be on the new perfected earth, apparently tending the new Garden of Eden — completing the cycle. Or they might be in the New Jerusalem, receiving the tributes of foreign nations. Oh well — time to take rest from unreality.

And here is a painting of the same subject: The Valley of Dry Bones by Quentin Metsys the Younger, c. 1589. (“Shall these bones live?”) The strategic placement of the skeleton's hand (lower left) actually calls tremendous attention to itself.

PROPHETS VERSUS THE HEBREW WISDOM TRADITION (or: where shall sanity be found?)

“The three major prophets — Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel — may be considered, respectively, the manic, the depressive, and the psychotic articulation of the prophetic message. As for calm, sane, moderate versions of prophecy, in effect there are none. Sanity and calmness make their home not in Israel’s prophetic tradition but in its wisdom tradition. Wisdom accepts; prophecy rejects; and it requires a kind of madness to reject the basic givens of an entire society, all the more to suggest that history should begin again with a new creation of the world.

The cliché that the madman thinks he is God is more nearly true for these mad prophets than for any other writers in all of world literature. The prophets “play” the old themes of Israelite history and theology in a crazed and driven new way. But at every point, as God tries on and sometimes immediately tosses aside each new idea, each new image, the underlying question in his mind, too terrifying for ordinary words, is “If this is true, if this works, then . . . can we begin again?”

~ Jack Miles, “God: A Biography”

Rubens: Ezekiel, 1610 (after Michelangelo's Ezekiel)



~ “The carts, called “dead carts,” came to the pits at night piled high with corpses, until the pits could hold no more. They came at the rate of as many as 400 bodies a week. The rule was that once the corpses reached within six feet of the surface a pit should be closed.

And so it went in London through the summer, fall, and winter of 1665 as the Great Plague raged unchecked through the foul and narrow streets. Before it ended in 1666, 100,000 people, almost a quarter of the city’s population, were dead.

One of the pits was at Bone Hill, so named because a century earlier more than 1,000 cartloads of human bones had been dumped there after a charnel house was closed. The plague-ravaged bodies were thrown on top of the dry bones before the pit was closed.
Today, Bone Hill is Bunhill Fields, a beautifully tended small park and graveyard just half a block from a perpetual traffic snarl known as Silicon Roundabout because it’s where high-tech company campuses are clustered on the edge of London’s financial district.
Like the current coronavirus epidemic, the Great Plague had its origins in China. It first appeared in 1331, as bubonic plague, and in the following centuries was the cause of two pandemics, including the Black Death that killed as many as 200 million people in Eurasia, and many other more localized outbreaks. During that time nobody understood that the cause was fleas carried by black rats.

Defoe wrote his account 57 years after the event, instantly creating a book that defied category—was it fiction, fact, or a new kind of documentary record? It purported to be an eye-witness account by a person known as H.F., “a citizen who continued all the while in London,” whose trade was saddler. (Defoe used the same first person viewpoint in Robinson Crusoe.)

As he observes, he is critical: “I must here take farther notice that nothing was more fatal to the inhabitants of this city, than the supine negligence of the people themselves, who during the long notice, or warning they had of the visitation, yet made no provision for it, by laying in store of provisions, or of other necessaries; by which they might have liv’d retir’d, and within their own houses, as I have observed, others did, and who were in a great measure preserv’d by that caution…”

Defoe, as the eye-witness, describes victims being driven mad by the infection: “Some broke out into the streets, perhaps naked, and would run directly down to the river, if they were not stopt by the watchmen, or other officers, and plunge themselves into the water, wherever they found it.”

Standing in an alley outside a house, he hears and sees horrors: “…the whole family was in a terrible fright, and I could hear women and children run skreaming about the rooms like distracted, when a garret window opened, and some body from a window on the other side of the alley, call’d and ask’d, What is the matter? Upon which, from the first window, it was answered, O Lord, my old master has hang’d himself! The other asked again, Is he quite dead? And the first answer’d, Ay,ay; quite dead; quite dead and cold! This person was a merchant, and a deputy alderman and very rich. I care not to mention the name, tho’ I knew his name, too, but that would be a hardship to the family, which is now flourishing again.”
And, the city being what it was, there were villains who fell upon the victims:

“We had at this time a great many frightful stories told us of nurses and watchmen, who looked after the dying people, that is to say, hir’d nurses, who attended infected people, using them barbarously, starving them, smothering them, or by other wicked means, hastening their end, that is to say, murthering them; and watchmen being set to guard houses that were shut up, when there has been but one person left, and perhaps, that one lying sick, that they have broke in and murthered that body, and immediately thrown them out into the dead cart! And so they gone scarce cold to the grave.”

With A Journal of the Plague Year Defoe had invented the long narrative form reconstructing a major event in immersive detail. He drew on contemporary documents to build tension—for example, by inserting the weekly “Bills of Mortality” recorded by the authorities that showed the relentless progress of the plague. In just two months, August and September 1665, 50,000 deaths were attributed to the plague, although the deaths certainly were undercounted at the time.

He was certainly astute enough, after being an author for 40 years, not to end his account of the plague on a low note. Instead, he portrays the lifting of the terror as a kind of miracle:

“…the poyson was taken out of the sting, it was wonderful, even the physicians themselves were surprized at it; wherever they visited, they found their patients better, either they had sweated kindly, or the tumours were broke, or the carbuncles went down, and the Inflammations round them chang’d colour, or the fever was gone, or the violent head-ach was asswag’d, or some good symptom was in the case; so that in a few days, every body was recovering…”

And the end of it was a mystery. Having no idea of the cause, there was no understanding of why it ended: “…it was evidently from the secret invisible hand of him, that had first sent this disease as a judgment upon us” wrote Defoe, resorting to an unusual, for him, biblical tone.

One theory was that the Great Fire of 1666 that swept through the oldest parts of the city could have consumed the pestilence—it certainly consumed the rats. But some of the parishes worst hit by the plague did not burn. 

England suffered no further outbreaks, although there were several in continental Europe in 1709, 1711 and 1712, and a calamitous outbreak in 1720 in southern France, beginning in Marseilles, that raged for two years.

Bubonic plague is rare today. There are about 650 cases a year, and it can be successfully treated with antibiotics—although treatment is needed within 24 hours once the symptoms appear, otherwise the risk of death is high. At least we know our present plague is not the work of a “secret invisible hand,” but human folly, “supine negligence,” is just as evident.” ~


Being a writer, Defoe knew better than to end on a low note. The audience has certain expectations that you just can’t afford to break. The good must triumph.


As for the coronavirus, let’s remember that worse pandemics have come and gone. From Jennifer Bardi, the senior editor of The Humanist, February 28, 2020:

~ “It's not an especially virulent infection for most people. That's what's letting it spread. (I've heard from a reader who believes he caught COVID-19 while in Wuhan in late fall—says it was like a bad cold with no residual effects. If true, then he had a typical experience with the disease.) The fatality rate, so far, is roughly 2 percent. That's on a par with measles (if you've not been vaccinated).

However, a lot of people are in utter panic. Yesterday my fellow Americans sold off a record amount stock into a falling market and then rushed to drug stores to demand face masks. I was at Walgreen’s where an elderly couple ahead of me were outraged to learn the store had sold out of them. When I asked the pharmacist if she'd had a lot of similarly frantic requests, she said it was unbelievable, “an unending stream." Ironically, a face mask's greatest utility is probably to limit the spread of virus from an infected person. Its ability to stop an inbound virus is highly doubtful. Instead of racing around in search of face masks, why don't we just agree to stop shaking hands? Cutting off that transmission route would surely help.” ~

And from another source:

~ What is my risk of exposure?

Right now, unless you are in one of the rarefied populations around the world where the disease is concentrated, the answer is: probably very, very, very low. There are, as I write this (2/28/20) just under 84,000 global cases out of a population of nearly 8 billion humans. That is one case per 100,000. For comparison, the lifetime risk of being struck by lightning in the United States is roughly one in 3,000. The coronavirus numbers could change, of course, and likely will, but for now- total cases are of a “one in many, many thousands” magnitude, making exposure for any one of us highly improbable.
Being exposed is necessary, but not sufficient, to get infected.

~ If I am exposed, how probable is it I get the disease?

This is the infection rate. If we use the most concentrated outbreak in Wuhan, China, as our model, with the assumption (obviously not entirely true) that everyone there was “exposed,” then the answer at the moment is just under 79,000 cases in a population of 11 million. That is an infection rate of roughly 7 per thousand, or 0.7 percent.

~ If I get infected, how probable is it the disease will kill me?

This is the fatality rate. Once again, the most dire numbers come from Wuhan, where there have been just under 2,800 deaths among the just under 79,000 infected. That ratio yields a fatality rate of less than 4 per hundred, or just under 4 percent.

[Oriana: However, the more commonly accepted number is 2%.]


There is a special mask that can stop the incoming virus, an N95 respirator, but you need training in how to use it, and it’s supposed to be so uncomfortable that even health professionals have trouble wearing it for more than half an hour (but they rely on it when with a patient in an isolation room). 

 The good news is that the coronavirus mortality rate is most likely only 2%. True, that’s significantly more than the 0.1% mortality of ordinary influenza, but it’s a far cry from Ebola's 90% mortality rate, to use the most drastic recent example. Ebola was extremely virulent; coronavirus simply isn’t. Unless you have a compromised immune system, there is no reason to panic. But move away from anyone who’s coughing and sneezing, and do keep washing your hands.

ending on beauty:

So long as that woman from the Rijksmuseum

in painted quiet and concentration

keeps pouring milk day after day

from the pitcher to the bowl

the World hasn't earned

the world's end.

~ Wisława Szymborska