Tag Archives: virus

Covid-19 and The Decameron

I confess that I have only read about half of The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. But yesterday, I saw a friend’s Facebook post that included a quote from the text, which inspired me to reread the Introduction, which is relevant to what we are dealing with in these times of Covid-19.

So to provide a little background about this book for those who do not know about it:

The book is structured as a frame story containing 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and three young men sheltering in a secluded villa just outside Florence to escape the Black Death, which was afflicting the city. Boccaccio probably conceived of The Decameron after the epidemic of 1348, and completed it by 1353. The various tales of love in The Decameron range from the erotic to the tragic. Tales of wit, practical jokes, and life lessons contribute to the mosaic. In addition to its literary value and widespread influence (for example on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales), it provides a document of life at the time. Written in the vernacular of the Florentine language, it is considered a masterpiece of classical early Italian prose.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Boccaccio describes how the plague originated in the East and then spread to the West, eventually infecting people in Florence, similar to the advent and spread of our current pandemic.

I say, then, that the years of the beatific incarnation of the Son of God had reached the tale of one thousand three hundred and forty-eight, when in the illustrious city of Florence, the fairest of all the cities of Italy, there made its appearance that deadly pestilence, which, whether disseminated by the influence of the celestial bodies, or sent upon us mortals by God in His just wrath by way of retribution for our iniquities, had had its origin some years before in the East, whence, after destroying an innumerable multitude of living beings, it had propagated itself without respite from place to place, and so, calamitously, had spread into the West.

(p. 1)

Boccaccio then details the initial response, how the city restricted entrance by individuals showing signs of infection. This is the same as the initial response by the US and many other countries as the virus began to spread.

In Florence, despite all that human wisdom and forethought could devise to avert it, as the cleansing of the city from many impurities by officials appointed for the purpose, the refusal of entrance to all sick folk, and the adoption of many precautions for the preservation of health; despite also humble supplications addressed to God, and often repeated both in public procession and otherwise, by the devout; towards the beginning of the spring of the said year the doleful effects of the pestilence began to be horribly apparent by symptoms that shewed as if miraculous.

(p. 1)

Next, he describes how the infection was not only passed from sick to healthy persons, but that the germs also survived on materials and could be contracted that way.

Moreover, the virulence of the pest was the greater by reason that intercourse was apt to convey it from the sick to the whole, just as fire devours things dry or greasy when they are brought close to it. Nay, the evil went yet further, for not merely by speech or association with the sick was the malady communicated to the healthy with consequent peril of common death; but any that touched the clothes of the sick or aught else that had been touched or used by them, seemed thereby to contract the disease.

(p. 2)

Finally, individuals are described as going into “voluntary exile,” essentially social distancing until the threat of contagion has passed.

Some again, the most sound, perhaps, in judgment, as they were also the most harsh in temper, of all, affirmed that there was no medicine for the disease superior or equal in efficacy to flight; following which prescription a multitude of men and women, negligent of all but themselves, deserted their city, their houses, their estates, their kinsfolk, their goods, and went into voluntary exile, or migrated to the country parts, as if God in visiting men with this pestilence in requital of their iniquities would not pursue them with His wrath wherever they might be, but intended the destruction of such alone as remained within the circuit of the walls of the city; or deeming, perchance, that it was now time for all to flee from it, and that its last hour was come.

(p. 3)

The social distancers of Boccaccio’s time passed the time by telling stories. Thankfully, we have tools of communicating which were not dreamed of in 14th century Italy. We can share our stories via phone calls, video conferences, social media, and numerous other platforms. In times like this, the stories we share matter. They allow us to stay connected to our humanity. This is why I continue to write here and share with everyone.

As you are staying home, I encourage you to talk with people you know, reach out to those who may be alone, and help each other through these difficult times. Stay safe!

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Spring Equinox: Ostara and Temperance

Today is the Spring Equinox, symbolic of balance and rebirth, themes that seem even more important as we grapple with the rapid changes that COVID-19 is bringing to our world. Anyway, after my morning meditation and journal writing, I read a short essay entitled “Ostara and Temperance” published in Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2020, and figured I would share part of it in today’s post.

At Ostara, the Goddess returns from the underworld, bringing with her a celebration of miracles, spring, new life, and balance. The Temperance tarot card beautifully represents these themes. Birth is considered a kind of miracle, a mixing of life and death (for the minute anything is born, it begins to die) that creates our experience on this planet. The angel in Temperance holds two cups, their liquid blending at a scientifically impossible angle, representing an alchemical mystery. Although equinoxes represent balance, and at this time life and light are becoming stronger than death and darkness, each equinox contains the seed of its opposite. Like an eggshell—which is strong enough to protect new life but at the right moment is weak enough to be broken through—something is destroyed and the old existence of the newly born creature dies.

(Barbara Moore)

For me, it is evident that our old way of life has cracked like a fragile eggshell, and is dying to make way for something new. It is a scary time, because all birth and all things new are scary. None of us can envision what our new world will look like. But clearly, our consumer-driven capitalist society is the thing that is actually dying right now as a result of this virus. That said, we all have a role in manifesting what will rise from these ashes. It is crucial that we nurture the new growth, and not let fear and self-centeredness dictate our actions in the coming days.

Have a blessed Equinox, and may you be a conscious participant in the change to come.

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Evolution: #02

This graphic series is good so far. The story demands attention from the reader, since it basically weaves three storylines together around a central plot. I suspect that the creative team will eventually weave this all into a grotesquely intricate tapestry of science fiction horror. I’m looking forward to how the tale will progress.

Because of the structure of this tale, it is difficult to critique it, since the story still feels fragmented (in a good way), and feels like the characters are still being developed and the background story established. But there is an interesting passage regarding evolution that is worth sharing.

Evolution never stopped. There are still changes happening all around us. Bedbugs disappeared for almost 50 years, then came back with a vengeance, aided by a new exoskeleton and a faster metabolism. Moscow dogs that learn to ride the subway, knowing which stop to get off at. Cardiologists whose exposure to x-rays increased the hydrogen peroxide levels in their blood, leading to more glutathione, which helps protect them from radiation. Fundamental changes on a cellular level. The ones we know about. There are new species we’re still discovering. People living in remote, extreme areas, who never see a doctor, never mingle with civilization. Evolution used to be slow, methodical. A defensive measure to adapt life to new conditions. Now it’s fast, brutal and playing offense.

What I find interesting about this passage is that it is very plausible, especially when you consider how rapidly things change in our highly technical world. Everything moves faster and faster, so it stands to reason that evolution would also have to speed up to keep pace with global changes. Consider how fast viruses and bacteria mutate now, exhausting our antibacterial resources. It certainly is worth exploring through sci-fi literature.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading interesting stuff.

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The X-Files Season 10: Issue #16

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This issue is titled Immaculate and is the first installment in a new storyline. It is definitely spooky stuff and sucks you right in. The writing team weaves together science fiction and horror with actual events to create a truly engaging tale. I’m already craving the next issue.

The story is set in a rural North Carolina town that certainly fits the Bible Belt stereotype. A young woman named Joanie Cartwright goes to an abortion clinic and passes the gauntlet of Pro-Life demonstrators. Once inside, she appears to be communicating with an unseen alien entity. A bomb is exploded and it is assumed that she smuggled it in and detonated it, although she emerges unharmed. She continues to speak to this entity with divine reverence and persuades some of the protesters to follow her.

Once Mulder and Scully are assigned, they discover that the girl’s mother and some of the townsfolk have blinded themselves. They also find out that Joanie’s supposed boyfriend, Daniel, is studying a book on demonology. This all works well in building a compelling mystery.

The issue concludes with a twist that deepens the plot. Throughout the issue, an alien-like shadow represents the entity with whom Joanie is communicating. In the final frame, the entity is depicted with horns and what appear to be large wings, a clear implication that this is supposed to be a demonic being. It leaves the reader with a slew of questions. Is Joanie impregnated by some satanic entity? Is there a connection between angelic/demonic beings and alien life forms? Is Joanie an innocent or is there some dark intention behind her actions? In classic X-Files fashion, one is left with more questions rather than answers.

The issue scheduled out next month will be titled Millennial Visions. That intrigues me for a couple reasons. I don’t think our society has truly gotten over our millennial fears. I think as a society, our apocalyptic fears have taken root and are being fed by media hype. Natural disaster, global warfare, and biological threats are all prominent in our collective psyches. I am also intrigued by the possibility that we may see the return of Frank Black. For those who are unfamiliar, Frank Black was the main character in Chris Carter’s other television series, “Millennium,” which explored the darkness and apocalyptic changes associated with the new millennium. The show ended abruptly and Frank Black made his final television appearance on an X-Files episode. I have always hoped that Black would return in a film or something. Maybe this will be it. I suppose we will have to wait until next month to find out.

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The X-Files Conspiracy: #2

XFilesConspiracy_02

This issue concludes the six-part miniseries. While the series as a whole was a little goofy at times, overall it worked for me.

In this issue, the Lone Gunmen are reunited with Mulder and Scully as they race to prevent the spread of the genetically modified alien hybrid virus. The story works really well and concludes nicely. There is a twist at the end that draws on parallel universe theory in quantum physics, but that’s all I’ll say. You know how I feel about spoilers.

What really stood out for me in this issue, though, was the quality of the art work. It’s very good! There is one particular set of panels where Mulder is exploring a dark warehouse using a flashlight. The artist does a great job with light and shadow that evoked some of my favorite scenes from the television series. I’m no artist, but I understand that capturing the way light works is very difficult for a visual artist. Kudos to Stephen Downer and Chris Mowry for their work on this.

Reading this was welcome and refreshing, especially after reading the dismal X-Files 2014 Annual issue. I’m not sure if IDW plans to continue the Conspiracy series, but I hope so. I am, after all, a life-long X-Phile.

Links to my reviews of past X-Files Conspiracy issues:

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The X-Files Season 10 Comic: Issue #11

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This series is really starting to come together. Even the inclusion of the Lone Gunmen (who usually do little more than annoy me) worked well in this issue.

This installment takes place in Saudi Arabia, which ties in nicely with the return of the “black oil.” Essentially, the black oil is an alien virus that enters a human host and takes control of that person. It was featured in several series episodes, as well as in the original X-Files movie. Click here if you are interested in reading more about the oil.

There were no quotes that need to be highlighted here. Not that it is poorly written or anything such as that, there was just nothing in the dialog that struck me as extraordinarily profound or contemplative. Regardless, I felt intrigued when I finished. The strength in this episode is that it does an outstanding job setting the scene for subsequent installments. I have to say, I’m already eager to read Issue 12.

Now, I generally try to avoid spoilers in my posts, but doing so for this issue is impossible, so if you want to you can stop reading here.

At the very end of this issue, we have the return of another supposedly dead X-Files character: Alex Krychek. I don’t know why, but his reappearance did not bother me like the other resurrected characters in the series did. Maybe it was because Krychek had actually made a post-death appearance in one of the television series episodes. Anyway, I’m curious as to how the writers will spin this. For those who are interested, here is a good page that provides a lot of background information on Krychek.

My review of Issue 12 will be up as soon as I get my hands on the issue. Cheers!

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