The exponential of panic is vertigo. Amp it to a global and collective high—a singularity in historical communion—and it will soon take on the ring of the orgy or the charnel.
What makes the COVID epidemic so unique are its mutually imbricated magnitude and scale. If, in earlier iterations, vertigo was viscerally attractive; the new one is no less enthralling—if cosmically so. It is not so much seductive and insidious as it is compersive and explosive. This is the closest that we, as a species, may come to partaking in the psychonaut’s utopia of the total trip, to be shared by all and (almost) no matter how bad.
We can imagine similar, vertiginous sensations overcoming discrete human groups—families, tribes, nations—prior to this, though nothing as life-warping as a plague has crept into every corner of the inhabited world before and been experienced by so many of us, simultaneously and with our levels of interconnectedness, on such a scale. The potential for social-behavioural reorientation is patent, within an optimistically limited purview of maybe two years. Which is another way to look at this and tremble.
The uncurbed vertigo of world events, the change in speed it heralds, does not belong to the uncanny, with its homely and domestic connotations, but to the prodigious. I’m surprised there hasn’t been an uptick in five-legged calfs and two-headed snakes. Yet.