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How Fragile We Are, Yet So Resilient

There's a disease Going 'round the hospital. Green green leaves Falling from the trees — Evan Dando

Look out at the stars and you feel so very, very small.

You’re just an infinitesimal spark flickering briefly in the perfectly disordered cosmos.

Until, poof, the light snuffs out.

real gone kid (1)

And you’re a real gone kid.

And if you are being observed from across a few trillion galaxies your light will have gone out aeons ago, and they’re only seeing it now.

You’re a long, long gone kid.

Oberst x
Conor Oberst … nowhere, man!

Like Conor Oberst sings in We Are Nowhere and It’s Now:

“You see stars that clear have been dead for years

But the idea just lives on”

Oberst stars quote (1)

But are you gone?

Normally, your personal assemblage of atoms, protons, cells, tissues, organs, and elements will all disassemble after you die, and slowly release you into the ecosystem, as a nutritious and deliciously rich source of minerals and chemical elements.

You really are part of the show.

And you always were.

So, small as you are, you pack quite the cosmic punch.

Hardly as big a punch, proportionately, however, as an infinitesimally small virus that is causing immeasurable fear and damage around our planet right now.

Compared to the coronavirus, you are as vast as any galaxy.

This crown-headed scourge of our planet measures just 200 millionths of a millimetre — 50,000 virus particles fit on the head of a small pin.

So big are you by comparison, you cannot even see this deadly invader that can enter your body through your nose, mouth or eyes, and then, according to the NY Times article I was reading, it will attach itself to cells in your airway that produce a protein called ACE2.

This crown-headed scourge of our planet measures just 200 millionths of a millimetre — 50,000 virus particles fit on the head of a small pin

The coronavirus is named after the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The virus is enveloped in a bubble of oily molecules, which falls apart on contact with soap.

That’s if you intercept it outside your body, before it reaches those cells.

So we keep washing our hands.

According to the NY Times, the virus infects each cell by fusing its oily membrane with the membrane of the cell. Once inside, the coronavirus releases a snippet of genetic material called RNA.

The infected cell reads the RNA and begins making proteins that will keep the immune system at bay and help assemble new copies of the virus.

Antibiotics kill bacteria but do not work against viruses. But loads of wonderful brain-box researchers are frantically testing antiviral drugs that might disrupt viral proteins and stop the infection.

For me, this is another one of the mad things about this virus, indeed all viruses: the precision and twisted genius in the way it goes about its thoughtless work.

That’s nature for you though, us humans are the only ones who think about what’s going on, every other creature, microscopic parasite or organism just carries on conquering and attacking, and mutating and perpetuating.

I have sat here in my little home office signed into the Houston nerve centre of two different newspapers and worked away

Each cell infected by the coronavirus can release millions of copies of the virus before the cell finally breaks down and dies.

The viruses may infect nearby cells, or end up in droplets that escape the lungs.

Each droplet of spit, snot or mucous shooting out of your mouth contains billions of these stormtroopers of the airways.

Most Covid-19 infections cause a fever as the immune system fights to clear the virus.

In severe cases, the immune system can overreact and start attacking lung cells.

The lungs become obstructed with fluid and dying cells, making it difficult to breathe.

A small percentage of infections can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome, and possibly death. Like in Italy right now: nearly 3000 deaths when I googled a few minutes ago.

That’s the great thing, I reckon, about computers: they are keeping us together as they keep us apart.

I have sat here in my little home office signed into the Houston nerve centre of two different newspapers and worked away. Proud to be part of a team producing those newspapers that will have hit your news stands, wherever you are.

houston
Houston Ground Control to Major Tom …

As all the while our crown-headed devil lies waiting to cross over into another host cell network — that’s you or me.

Coughing and sneezing can expel virus-laden droplets on to nearby people and surfaces, where the virus can remain infectious for several hours to several days. 

The virus seems to be transmitted mainly via these respiratory droplets that we sneeze, cough, or exhale. 

Here’s some more stuff I have come across: a virus is a microscopic piece of genetic material surrounded by a coat made of proteins.

Like we said, it enters healthy cells and hijacks them, creating copies of itself.

So on it goes, the raging of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we vast but tiny creatures struggle to contain our anxiety and our fear as we protect ourselves and carry on living

When viruses begin replicating inside a living organism, they can cause an infectious disease.

In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, the virus is SARS-CoV-2, and the disease is called Covid-19. 

But here’s another mad thing: ingenious as these viruses are when they go about replicating themselves and wreaking all that havoc, they actually can’t function without interacting with a living cell.

They need the host cell to replicate.

So, if they are outside your body, and your hands are properly washed, soap can kill the virus.

But once it’s inside,  and begins replicating, it’s much harder.

Your own cells are being used against you, as the virus infects and uses them to replicate itself — this process often kills the infected body cells, causing damage to the body.

This battle can cause all sorts of problems in our body, depending on the virus and its location: inflammation, fatigue … all the symptoms we have seen described.

In many cases, our bodies win the battle — viruses like the flu or the common cold are usually fairly easy for a healthy person to beat.

But some viruses can be much harder to fight, especially for people with compromised immune systems.

So on it goes, the raging of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we vast but tiny creatures struggle to contain our anxiety and our fear as we protect ourselves and carry on living.

Here again, faith must play its part: we have to believe we will come through this, and learn from it.

At times like this, we can see how vast and how infinitesimal is our cosmic footprint.

Sting Fragile (1)

And, as Sting put it:

“For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are”

And yet how resilient too.

For, as our Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, said in one off two landmark addresses to the nation:”We will get through this. And we will prevail.”

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46 comments on “How Fragile We Are, Yet So Resilient

  1. Such a different take on the coronavirus compared to many other blogs I have read. Yours was told post in a calming nature, which I think goes a long way in helping those who are very scared by what is going on. Thank you for the calm manner in which you wrote this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Hugh, I guess I can be calm now as no-one close to ne has been affected – yet! Thank you for your lovely comment, and keep safe

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re most welcome. It was a breath of fresh air reading your post about the Coronavirus. We all have to be calm and take advice from the proper channels about this pandemic. There is so much fake news, fake emails, phoney text messages out there about the situation we all find ourselves in. It seems some are already conning others out of money and savings with claims they have a cure. I even had a text message yesterday claiming that sun-breathing kills the virus. Considering I live in cloudy, cool, grey UK, there’s no chance of sunbathing for me at the moment.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Hugh, I guess I can be calm about it as no-one I know has been directly impacted — yet. Thank you for your lovely comment

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Hugh: calm, clear, factual, as befits a journalist worthy of the name. An excellent piece, Enda. I just wish we had a Prime Minister we could trust to know what he’s doing and tell the truth about it. Stay safe, my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Clive, good to hear from you … Boris hasn’t been impressive, has he? Our guys have done well … it’s good to be able to speak positively of our pols and big players

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sadly, he’s showing all the signs I expected of him: ambition far exceeding ability. A snake oil salesman who has conned the masses, surrounded by a Cabinet of fellow incompetents. I’m glad things are better for you!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes Clive, but even leadership and good words can only go so far … stay safe, and hope all goes well for you and … well, Britain and the world!😱😀👍

    Like

  4. Possibly a vaccine or other effective treatment will be created. Obviously, it’s needed ASAP.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It sure is Neil, let’s hope it is soon!!!

    Like

  6. So tiny yet so frightening. I’m feeling fragile with my compromised immune system but I’m not ready to throw away my souvenirs just yet (Real Gone Kid)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lots to ponder there.

    Always pleased to visit here for a striking perspective.

    Stay well.

    Regards Thom

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “ the precision and twisted genius of the way they go about their thoughtless work”

    Maybe the virus is just replicating what it sees: us.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The funny thing about each one of us is that we are not the same collection of cells today that we were yesterday, or a week ago, or 10 years ago. Just what is it that makes up “me”?

    Thanks for explaining the science of a virus. As a former science teacher, I loved reading about it. I believe at one time there was some question about whether viruses are actually alive or not. Either way, They can cause a lot of suffering.

    When I was younger, I had viral pneumonia. Luckily the virus only colonized one lung or I would not be here reading this excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • IN fairness, Laurie, my “scientific” explanations of the virus are replications of how they themselves work: I have colonised the hard work and learning of others and reproduced it here for my own purposes. I just read things on the whole thing that I understood, and wove it through my reflections. I suppose I am quietly horrified and fascinated by how the coronavirus, indeed all viruses, seem to work, Gosh, good job your other lung was okay. I hope they both work properly now.

      Like

  10. Good post. Interesting to get the medical info in layman terms. I’m a bit over this virus – I had a complete melt down a few days ago and then realised this is what everyone in Syria/Bosnia/Vietnam/Cambodia and a million other countries have gone thru when war arrives on their doorstep overnight, disrupting their plans of concerts and holidays and even just shopping. It has just never happened to us (in Australia). So I am watching the SARS and Ebola expereinced countries and hoping our govt will finally cotton on to do the same. Meanwhile, I am busying myself with how I can help. Help the high risk people in my neighbourhood. Help the doctor next door. Help people stuck overseas. We can’t control the rest of it, but what we can control we should attempt…#KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Lydia. You are so right, that what we are experiencing now is all too common for certain people in the countries you have named. Sounds like you are taking a pro=active, thoughtful part in doing what you can top deal with this troubling time. Keep well

      Like

      • Back again for #GlobalBlogging. Time is so weird at the moment. I couldn’t remember if I’d even commented!! One day feels like a week. #GlobalBlogging

        Like

  11. I have enjoyed reading all about the science of the virus. It’s so much better than all the click-bait news titles out there, which quite frankly I have had enough of.

    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

    Like

    • Hi Maria, thanks for reading, and taking the trouble to comment. Hope you are all keeping well in this worrying time

      Like

  12. I don’t think I’ve really thought much about the science behind viruses since my university days although I did enjoy demonstrating the science behind why soap kills the virus before it enters your body to my daughter with a bowl of milk sprinkled with pepper. I’m glad you are able to continuing working from home. It helps to read about the virus from a more scientific and factual perspective and to be reminded of both how tiny and how vast we are. #WotW

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Louise, it is amazing the science bit — or what I can grasp, at least. Fascinating stuff about how the virus actually works, even if also scary! Stay well, you and your lovely family

      Like

  13. rainbowsaretoobeautiful

    I’d never really thought of as being vast like the cosmos, such a wonderful perspective – keep up the good hygiene! #kcacols

    Liked by 1 person

  14. rainbowsaretoobeautiful

    I’d never really thought of how we are actually part of the vastness of the cosmos like that. Keep up the good hygiene #kcacols

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great one, Enda. Mad times indeed, stopping us in our tracks in so many ways. Music (art in general..) is our best medicine I think 🙂 #dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, really crazy times, Isabel. Ans yes, a lot of music has been playing in our house. And thank the stars, the weather has been good, so have managed to get out — and still keeping a social distance.

      Like

  16. JennaBoden284

    I loved the way you integrated music into such an informative post. This whole situation is surreal. I feel like I’m in a bad B movie. You know the ones they show at 3am on a channel noone has ever heard of! Stay well #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I think we’ll all be able to apply for a degree in Virology by the end of this – there’s been so much information – positive and negative – and I think it comes back to remembering all the things our mothers taught us – be responsible, wash your hands, stay away from people if you’re sick or at risk, be kind, be generous – and be less self-centred. Hopefully the world will be a better place when we all emerge again.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Leanne. Thanks for reading and commenting. This virus thing really is something else. Like being caught in a very bad B-movie… except it’s been going on for a while … and not stopping any time soon. We can only hope it passes, and like you say, we do learn something positive from it all.

      Like

  18. I’m loving how people are using this time of isolation to stay connected via Technology. I’m seeing Zoom chats popping up everywhere and FaceTime and Facebook Live. It is a wonderful way to keep the connection going and feel supported by others. I’ve just had a FaceTime with my grandsons and it has brought joy to my day. Thanks for linking up at #MLSTL and providing a well balanced view of the current crisis. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true, where would we be without technology. I can imagine what our two teens will be like if the wifi goes down!!!

      Like

  19. It’s really weird to think that (outside the body) this blooming virus falls apart with just a bit of soap. And yet… look where we are now. It’s a really strange time. Here’s to keeping hold of that faith and determination that we will get through this… maybe next year it will be all old chip paper news. Here’s hoping. Thanks for joining us on the #DreamTeamLinky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Annette,hope you are all doing okay. We’re longing for those days, when this will be all behind us. Or at least we find a cure. Keep well

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Humans and viruses both have the biological drive to survive. It’s war! Thanks for linking up with #dreamteamlinky

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Hi Enda, Your title speaks volumes about humankind. Reality, the present moment plus hope and positivity. Your article is fascinating and captivating. I appreciate the summary on how and why the virus is so……..virulent! And as you explain “they need the host cell to replicate.” The words that resonate with me “we have to believe we will come through this, and learn from it.” My husband and I discuss how pandemics are part of our future. I am also hopeful. You mentioned “wonderful brain-box researchers.” An excellent post, Enda! I am glad our paths crossed. I think you had mentioned your wife is in the health field. Take care and stay healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Erica. Such kind, thoughtful words. My wife os a social worker, but also has psychotherapy training, and combines both facets in her work at a hospice in Dublin city. She is still, for now, going into work, being a designated needed worker. Hope you and your circle are getting through this alright. It will be a while yet

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Pradeep

    Hi Enda,
    You have brought out so well the damage such a microscopically small virus can wreak on the entire population of the world.
    Like your Prime Minister has said, we will triumph, but during the battle we will have to take maximum care.
    Stay Home, Stay Safe.
    – bpradeepnair.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

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