Coronavirus Preparations & Nature of Life

Mar 23, 2020 / The Twelve Mysteries / mythology / Joseph Campbell

iphone put inside a snack bag size plastic for easier disinfection with isoprophyl alcohol
Life Under Plastic Wrap. Toned Cyanotype Print, 2020. 6x6 inches. © Jonah Calinawan

I’m clear as to what I need to do during the coronavirus pandemic:

- Stay at home and not be part of the problem

- Support my partner who’s an ICU doctor who will be fighting in the front lines

Staying home should not be tough. I’m an introvert. I quit my job last year, and since then, I’ve spent more time inside the house than outside. Of course, this time it’s different. Now that I have to stay inside, I feel the need to go outside. It should be fine, though. Now is the perfect time to progress on my art goals and create some sense of normalcy and control.

Coronavirus Protocols at Home

At home, we’ve implemented protocols to minimize the probability of infection. We’re following all the recommendations from medical professionals: 6-feet social distancing, washing hands for 20 seconds, and not touching your face.

I only go out for groceries now. When going out to the grocery store, I don’t touch door handles, elevator buttons. This can only get me so far. I still have to touch the grocery cart handle. I still have to take out my credit card and insert it into the keypad. I just make sure I don’t touch my face while outside.

Ditch the wallet

I started paring down what I put in my pockets. I no longer use a wallet. I just bring my driver’s license, two credit cards, and my house key.

iPhone snack-bag plastic cover

I’ve removed my phone case (with all its nooks and crannies where the virus could attach). Instead, I’ve started using a snack bag to protect my phone. Surprisingly everything works through the plastic: faceID, touchID, touch gestures, even voice calls. I still disinfect everything with isopropyl alcohol when I get home, though. If you go with a larger plastic bag, then you could very carefully open it and let the phone fall onto a cushioned surface, you can then throw away the plastic bag. In this way, you don’t have to disinfect the phone. Another idea is you could rotate the use of plastic covers (see “aging” idea below). This last idea is more environmentally friendly.

Take off your clothes

When I get back inside the house, I take off all my clothes and throw them into the washer (I left the washer door open before leaving the house). After being outside, I never touch anything inside the house until I’ve washed my hands with soap for 20 seconds.

“Age” All Items from Outside

I’ve even started “aging” anything that comes from the outside. This is an accounting inspired idea. You age accounts receivable or accounts payable balances to see how long they’ve been outstanding. It’s a measure of risk and operating efficiency. Well, you can apply this to the current situation.

Studies are just coming out looking at how long coronavirus can survive on surfaces. Depending on the surface, it could be hours or days. The risk of getting coronavirus from a contaminated surface seems to be low, according to the article above. Still, just to be sure, I’ve started laying out all items coming from the outside like groceries, plastic bags, mail envelopes, packages, and letting them sit and “age” on the floor for five days. I won’t touch them again until the five days are up. Of course, this strategy doesn’t work for perishables like vegetables, but for everything else, this aging just gives me more psychological comfort.

UPDATE: The Washington Post just posted a newer article suggesting you shouldn’t worry about contaminated items like Amazon packages and grocery delivery. This newer article talks about breaking the chain of events that could lead to infection. This supports the idea of “aging” things and leaving them alone for a while before handling it.

Sleep Separately

We’ve already set up “quarantine demarcation zones” in our house when my partner starts his ICU rotation soon. We will have to sleep separately.

Coronavirus & Mythology

Throughout this prep work for the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been thinking about some passages from a Joseph Campbell book I read years ago about the purpose of mythology. I’ve written about the four functions of mythology before. I’m kind of obsessed with it. My art emanates from this obsession.

The first function of a living mythology is to reconcile our consciousness to the nature of life. What is this “nature of life” according to Joseph Campbell?

Life lives on life. Its first law is, now I’ll eat you, now you eat me—quite something for consciousness to assimilate. This business of life living on life—on death—had been in process for billions of years before eyes opened and became aware of what was going on out there, long before Homo Sapien’s appearance in the universe. The organs of life had evolved to depend on the death of others for their existence. These organs have impulses of which your consciousness isn’t even aware; when it becomes aware of them, you may become scared that this eat-or-be-eaten horror is what you are. The impact of this horror on a sensitive consciousness is terrific—this monster which is life. Life is a horrendous presence, and you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that. The first function of a mythological order has been to reconcile consciousness to this fact.

Joseph Campbell, Pathways To Bliss, Mythology and Personal Transformation p.3

Campbell’s use of “terrific” seems inappropriate here. Nowadays, we use the word terrific to mean awesome or amazing, but the third definition is what he means: “causing terror or great fear; terrifying.” (From The American Heritage Dictionary of the English language, 5th edition).

I’ve forgotten about these passages until the coronavirus. When I read this years ago, I always thought it was extreme.

Life feeds on life.

But this is what’s happening now. Here’s a virus whose main aim is to reproduce itself to ensure that it “lives.” Is the coronavirus alive or not alive? It depends on the definition of life. Since it can’t reproduce without invading a host cell, you could say it’s not alive. I’ll leave that for scientists and others to argue and write about. While this virus is not eating human beings, it’s invading human cells so that it could reproduce and make copies of itself. There is no better example of “eat-or-be-eaten horror” that Joseph Campbell writes about.

That’s exactly what’s happening with coronavirus vs. homo sapiens right now. It’s a battle for who eats who.

This Too Shall Pass

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