Like several people I know, I avoided Covid until earlier this month. When it hit, though, it hit hard: not with maximum life-threatening destruction but with a collapse of everyday function for a week. And now it's hard not to notice the extreme fatigue and the brain fog through which I'm wandering. I'm supposed to start lecturing on philosophy tomorrow. I wonder whether I'll be able to remember minute-by-minute what the class is about.
Have you ever thought about the way that adjectives become collective nouns? It's wild, and approaching the phenomenon searchingly, my daughter Jane hit this list:
I keep thinking about all these people, particularly the deaf, the destitute, and the dead. The poem seems to end on a hopeful note, but the young are our biggest problem. They’re dropping T's and can’t pronounce “important,” (they go for "impor-an" or something along those lines), thus rendering everything trivial. The young: they suck worse than the destitute. Don't try that in my class, little missy. Wait, what am I supposed to be teaching again? Fuck me.
At any rate, wandering randomly through the fog has its advantages. Sometimes in the past my consciousness was too clear, too transparent. Bits of the world stood out too starkly; the brutal truth—such as that our democracy itself as we understand it is under threat—too often seemed unavoidable. In my pre-Covid condition these trutal brooths seem to jar me, surprise me, dismay me. But now, thank Glod, I’ve no idea whether what I'm experiencing is real or not.
That's just what the ancient skeptics such as Aristippus of Cyrene (wait did I just make up Aristippus of Cyrene?) taught was the key to human happiness. Who cares? It might all just be a hallucination. But it’s comforting to realize that, if I’m not hallucinating, then many people are experiencing the brain fog along with me. We express our befogged solidarity by doing things like using “democracy itself as we understand it” to mean “democracy.” We're all forgetting how to talk together, which is some comfort to me in as I float around here in this undifferentiated pea-souper.
And really, it feels like it could be. (What, you may ask, could be what? I don't feel able to answer that at this time.) What do the faithful, the injured, or the sick think about this? It’s hazy. I'm thinking I might read Jared Kushner's memoir. Wait, what the fuck am I saying? But the fog, the humidity, the mist: they bring a certain comfort. They baffle us from the poignancy of our experience and the intolerable specificity and clarity of words. They release us from the infinite burden of meaning something. I'm losing track not only of what’s going on, but of what I mean. Let that comfort you.
I might be less controversial in a brain fog. I might be nicer. I might forget to nurse my resentments. Well, that part doesn't seem to be working out so far, but admittedly I have a long slide still to go.
Long before Covid, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, among many other politicians, were completely brain-befogged, capable only of inaccurately repeating vague catch-phrases, if that. Now that I've joined them, I feel a lot better about the direction of the country, if any, as all of us—the famous, the wealthy, and the wounded—wander randomly out here among the clouds in our heads. Where are our heads headed, on this great American journey? I've finally stopped caring about that. How could we tell, anyway?
And again today we face the question: Is abortion really healthcare? No idea, really.
In sum, like so many of us I’m often inspired by how parts of speech can turn into one another, how “impact” can become a verb, for example. If it's possible for adjectives to become nouns, anything is possible for people like us: the elderly, the faithful, the sick, the injured, the beautiful and the damned. So lecturing on philosophy tomorrow, specifically, must be possible. It just seems unlikely.
—Follow Crispin Sartwell on Twitter: @CrispinSartwell