Robert Frost wrote one of my favourite poems – Fire and Ice:
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
However, if it had to perish a third time, and in fact the method I think is most likely to finish off the world (or at least our current civilisation) is a variation on the common cold.
I’ve had the same severe cold for ten weeks now. I have ranted about this to many people in various places (online and off) so I won’t rant again – but it has occurred to me that this virus is grinding me down to the extent that it’s having a seriously detrimental effect on my life. I’m lacking in energy, only just about coping with the demands that life routinely places upon me, and my mood is very very low. No matter what I’ve tried I cannot shift this cold – and I believe I’ve tried just about everything.
I am one of many people who have had a cold/bug/flu this winter, and in some cases it must be the same strain as mine, since it takes the form of a cold that just lasts and lasts. I did not take time off work because I’m a contractor – I don’t work, I don’t get paid. So I stuffed myself full of painkillers and cold remedies and soldiered on. I am currently however resting between contracts and therefore able to rest andtake care of myself – but it’s making no difference, I am just not getting any better. I have been to the doctor twice to be told that since it’s a virus and not a bacterial infection, there’s nothing that can be done. I’m taking supplements until I rattle and homeopathic remedies as well – and I’m still sick.
This cold won’t kill me (if it sparks off an infection of some kind I’ll go to the doctor and get antibiotics). It’s not like any of the more serious flu epidemics – I could eventually recover. But I did get to thinking, what if I don’t? What if I feel like this for the rest of my life? What would the consequences be?
Well, I’ll be addicted to codeine based painkillers fairly soon for a start. I’ll get even less fit and put even more weight on, since I’m totally uninclined to take any exercise or be sensible about my diet. I am falling way behind on my OU course, the housework, my plans for packing (we’re moving house in a few months). I’m bad tempered most of the time because I don’t feel well most of the time. If and when I get another contract I will go back to work – but I’ll probably rely on painkillers, flu remedies and caffeine to get me through the day, none of which are actually good for my health long term. I may have to go onto antidepressants – my mood is currently very low, I’m prone to depression anyway because of three doses of post-natal depression, and I know how constant discomfort/pain can cause depression even without the virus adding its effect. I will be significantly less productive than I would be when I’m on top form – so my career will probably be less stellar than it would have been.
If it carries on it is very likely to shorten my life. It will certainly have a hugely detrimental effect on my quality of life and productivity. So what would happen if a significant percentage of the population caught this bug and couldn’t shake it off? 5%? 10%? 50%? Think of all of these effects multiplied. Productivity lessened, lives shortened, relationships affected – my marriage is tough enough to withstand this (I hope!) but is everyone’s?
I believe the world would unwind. I think it would slowly grind to a halt. This bug, if it remains unchecked, could be the end of the world as we know it long before climate change, economic boom-and-bust, supervolcanoes, asteroids from outer space or nuclear war has the chance to take that role…