The season is changing again. This morning the roofs of the houses in my neighborhood were coated in frost, I had to warm up my car before I could see out the windows and there was a fresh layer of snow on the peaks of the mountains.
I took my dog for a morning walk and the cottonwood trees presented in bright colors, while the seed tops of the golden grass were lined with ice crystals.
As I was walking along the alder-lined trail, the frosted leaves made little rustling noises as they were falling off the trees onto frozen ground. Steam rose from the surface of the lake as the colder air temperature caused some of the warmer water to evaporate.
My ears were cold and my hands deep in my pockets, but my mind was on the big changes in our world and how any one small person could hope to fix the many wrongs.
Coronavirus has changed the world. A virus is a thing so small it cannot be seen with one’s bare eyes, yet this one has changed the world not with long-term planning, with politics or with technology, but with a biological attack on the smallest building blocks of organic life-forms: our cells.
Recently, this tiny virus has even attacked the mighty center of U.S. government: the occupants of the White House. I can’t help but think of the story of David and Goliath, the tiny knight who single-handedly topples a giant.
Viruses are not the only small life-forms that attack and incapacitate giants many thousands of times their own size. There are some bacteria that are harmful to their hosts, and there are parasites that can harm or kill the organisms they infect.
Some parasites work their way into the body of their host, while others, like biting insects, take their odds at swiping a meal from a bigger opponent through sneak attacks.
Mosquitoes or gnats fly in for the attack and then try to get away and go on with their short lives, but ticks or fleas take residence on their host once they have found a suitable one.
The closest equivalent to parasitic insects in the marine environment are fish lice, which are a kind of copepod crustacean.
From causing minor irritation to the skin to outright killing the host, there is a gradient of severity resulting from the attacks from the small-size aggressors aimed at the large and mighty. There are also examples of smaller organisms banding up to take down a larger prey; for example, when a pack of wolves takes down a bison or when a pod of orcas attacks a bowhead whale, as was recently documented in the Arctic.
What we can learn from these small and successful conquistadors is that size is not all and that no one is too large and powerful to be taken down.
However, even half an hour of immersing oneself in the world news can have a devastating effect on one’s optimism and confidence to take down anything.
Talking to friends and acquaintances these days, I find myself often trying to lift someone’s spirits and attempting to help them see the sunny side of the rainbow.
Here is the advice I give people who are overwhelmed by the amount of big issues and world problems affecting their lives: Manage your news input.
Yes, it is good to be informed, but unselectively consuming news is like giving yourself an overdose of bad stuff to process. No wonder if it leaves you feeling bad.
Ask yourself what news it is that you want to learn about and stick with the topic. While getting your world virus update, avoid reading about the latest climate change report and the plight of elephants in Africa. While getting the latest U.S. election politics, do not get sidetracked into reading up on the rate of cancer or the destruction from wildfires in California. My advice is to choose your news and prepare yourself mentally to process it.
If you allow all the problems of the world into your home, you most likely feel overwhelmed, you most likely tune out, you most likely stop caring. Perhaps you care about all of them and feel guilty that you are not doing more to help.
Imagine you are a tuna and want to eat a herring. Except herring come in schools of several thousand individuals. Each of them moves and each of them glitters and they all dance around in one big ball, which looks like one large overwhelming whole. The only way the tuna can get a meal is if it learns to focus down on one herring and give chase.
If you can teach yourself to see your problems as challenges and then attack one of them and follow up on it, you will be more accomplished and feel better than when you look at them all and do nothing.
In a couple of weeks, your very small voice is invited to make a choice. It is the simplest of choices, a binary choice of two political opposites. You don’t get to choose what you want, just two options: one or the other; which is closer to your heart?
Your vote may only be one of millions, but it is yours and the fate of the world hangs on the small forces standing up to the mighty.
Corona shows us that a tiny organism can change the world. Who are you to shy away from a binary choice between one leader and another?
Vote, tell your kids and your friends and your parents to vote. Vote early at the borough building or wear a mask and gloves at the poll, but do not give up your right to vote, and do not skirt your duty to vote.
It is an amazing world and it depends on everyone making one choice on Election Day and believing that it will fundamentally affect many events over the years to come.