The Side Effects of Disease Prevention

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Florence Nightingale. “How little can be done under the spirit of fear.”

My friend owns a used bookstore, it’s a nice place to stop in. There’s a rotating cast of characters who pass thru. Among them a male nurse/poet who I’ve never seen in scrubs. His hair is curly, short, and always tidy with product. He always wears dress shoes. He is handsome but god knows if he’s ever used it. He might be a homosexual (an acquaintance, while we were both young, once chastised me for contemplating the sexual orientation of a young woman. Asking me, rhetorically: just what did it matter? As if one’s interest in such a thing could only come from bigotry. The end of curiosity will be the death of sex … this is perhaps one of the problems faced in marriage). Anyway, the conversation with this nurse turned to healthcare. He informed that the famous nurse Florence Nightingale, unfortunately, was a big spreader of venereal disease. He kept stressing the point about how unfortunate it was even while acknowledging that; “Well, what’s the one thing you know you can do to make people feel good.” I still don’t know anything about Ms. Nightingale, except that this anecdote made me like her so much more … and I was confused by this poet’s aversion to her logic. Of course the best nurse fell in love with each of her patients, that’s what made her a great nurse. It also made me question his credentials as a poet. Shouldn’t poetry, among all the works in this world, be the one thing most OK with the consequences of obsession and love?

It seems to me that the modern world isn’t producing enough fatalism (lack of fear for death). Like my own malfunctioning bile duct, whatever the balance is supposed to be seems .. off. The internet recently blew up with all kinds of justifications for social distancing. You’ve heard enough about the coronavirus, but that was the impetus. Many of these ideas are reasonable, yet they seemed to be screaming about what was essentially already daily practice. Shutting down schools and restaurants is a stop gap mainly influenced by governmental ass covering which can’t by any means stop the potential of viruses like this one’s existence. But when things return to normal, already I can hardly imagine one more step further of social distance. Everyone living in virtual reality?

I get that it’s hard to be calm when so many others are screaming fire, but how much preparedness will be enough preparedness? You know? And what about the idea that you’re going to die some day regardless? Is the world better without any Florence Nightingales so long as we don’t have any venereal diseases?

I think there’s a good chance that being on patrol of your competences reduces your chance for spontaneous feelings of affection … but does this even matter? For now, I’m trying to practice my stoicism which means I won’t take a stance. At the very least I know the internet can always use more of that.

“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.” -F.N.

Words as good as gold these days.

Written by

Relates with supervillains. Writes literary fiction. Likes audiobooks. His novella audiobook The Town of Books is available wherever you get yours.

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