Contagious

WAY blogpost

 

Reading the news over the past months about the Ebola virus, I can’t help but identify even more strongly with the predicament of my protagonist in Way of the Serpent. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Jenda Swain’s flight from Costa Rica arrived at the Dallas airport right on time.  Jenda was surprised to see how crowded the international terminal was. “I wonder what the holdup is?” she asked herself. And then she almost panicked; what if the international corporate police had caught wind of their plan and were searching bags? “It’s okay,” she told herself, “as long as you stay calm and don’t attract attention.” As she got nearer the gateways, Jenda saw that they were not inspecting bags, but rather scanning people with an infrared device. She felt relieved. “Do you know what’s going on?” She was now relaxed enough to speak to one of her companions in the slow moving queue.

“It’s the IHA – that blood disease, the hemolytic anemia. Well, I think they’re calling it VHA now that they know it’s a virus. It’s been spreading like wildfire. How long have you been out of the country anyway?” her companion responded.

“I didn’t think it was contagious,” Jenda said, “Why are they screening us?”

“Well, now they know it is contagious,” the man replied, “although they’re still a long way from understanding how to deal with the virus that’s causing it. Lots of cases in Mexico and Guatemala, so all passengers from anywhere in Central America are getting screened.”

Jenda thanked her fellow traveler for the information. “Well, here’s something else I could worry about,” she said to herself, “but let’s just say I choose not to.”

When Jenda finally passed through the screening device, she noticed that several people had been pulled aside and equipped with face masks. A gloved and masked physician wearing a Pharmakon uniform was speaking with them. “I am not going to worry about this!” Jenda told herself again.

Riding in the autocar back to her apartment, Jenda gave her grandmother a call.

“Oh, I’m so glad to hear your voice,” Granny El said. “I’ve been worried about you, you know, what with this VHA thing beginning to get all out of hand. At least I was glad you were in Argentina rather than Central America – it’s really getting bad there!” Not worrying about viral hemolytic anemia was getting harder for Jenda.

WATCH FOR publication of Way of the Serpent on Amazon in early 2015!

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No Heroes

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We yearn for heroes, for larger-than-life, superhuman beings who are always good, almighty, victorious. Heroes are reliable; we can count on them, trust them to save the maiden and the victim of misfortune, to slay whatever dragons threaten. The old sagas of gods and titans titillate our expectations, which are further fed by comic book narratives and blockbuster movies. Our modern media toss the word “hero” around like confetti, celebrating all kinds of activities, christening the most unlikely of characters.

There are no heroes. Human beings are capable of heroic acts, but they cannot help but remain human beings. Our favorite comic book characters – Superman, Batman – have their human alter-egos who remain vulnerable to the emotional upheavals of love, sorrow, anger. Yet it is only when they don their hero’s garb that we recognize them as heroic.

I long for the day when we can celebrate humanity rather than heroism, when we can honor the deeds of simple kindness and reason, when altruism doesn’t have to be spectacular to merit our admiration. Human beings are remarkable creatures. For me, they are enough.

TOMORROW’S BLOG: No Villains

Giving Tuesday

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Some people say that humanity can be divided into two groups – givers and takers. On the contrary, I believe that, depending on time and place and circumstance, we are all givers, we are all takers.

Today has been designated online as “Giving Tuesday”, a day on which all of us make an effort to be givers. There are many worthy recipients for your generosity. Choose something you believe in, something you have vetted and which you know will make good use of your gift. Then give in the spirit of the quote above from Lilla Watson, knowing that we are all in this together.