26 January 20XX + 1
My Dear Lucilius:
One thing I think of as I sit here, day after day, trying to stay busy and engaged and waiting patiently for a Spring that constantly seems forever out of reach, is the reasonable health I have enjoyed this past year.
I have always enjoyed moderately good health, with the caveat of course that age is the great leveler of us all: with the exception of the usual aches and pains of sore knees and a lower back that needs monitoring, I have little to complain of. Working to stay active, especially when I moved here permanently, during the Winter months was a challenge, but a resolvable one with the proper equipment.
That said, I realized this morning that I have not had a cold in well over two years.
The answer, of course, is pretty easy: no people. Or not many, anyway. Young Xerxes, when he comes by. An acknowledgment when I am watching the road coming in, from time to time. But really, that is it.
It does make you wonder about the urban areas though – perhaps like the ones you find yourself closer to (though not fully by choice). People, all the makings of epidemics – and the health services which are undoubtedly very much less than they once were, if they are at all anymore.
Not that we are in any wise better, of course. The regional hospital is about 25 miles away – an easy 30 minutes back in the days of fuel, now a solid day walking to get there and another to get back, assuming that they are still open (they are not, so we hear). If you have an “emergency” anymore (and I suspect our definition of such things has changed dramatically), do not count on making it there in time for a resolution. We are thrown back on our own resources, in this as in so many other things.
And although we may (at least temporarily, if not more permanently) now lack the benefits of so defined “modern medicine”, we at least have practices that our ancestors – even our very recent ones – did not. Wash your hands regularly and practice general good hygiene (thankfully, we know how to make soap now, although like so many other humble items I am sure it will become a trading good rather quickly). Eat sensibly, and in general monitor your intake of things like sugar and salt (sugar is a passing problem I suspect; give this interruption enough time and sweets and the resultant tooth decay will be a very small problem). Brush your teeth. Care for wounds quickly. Keep the weight down and the activity up. Protect your hearing, your knees, and your back (you will need them all).
But at best these are all maintenance activities. Unless things turn around fairly quickly, the great advances of modern medicine will have gone beyond our reach to recover them. Instead, we will be rewarded with conditions and diseases that we in the modern world thought we had conquered long ago, without the benefit of the modern world to fight them.
One wonders, Lucilius, if those who blithely continued down this path of interrupting our ability to create and build and replaced it with a philosophy of the generous spending of others’ money, of replacing the independence of the individual and the sharing between individuals to the enforced cooperation of the caring collective, foresaw such impacts in their grand social plans? No matter; they forgot the most fundamental point of macroeconomics that I learned long before the then-current system had existed: the modern economic system was a highly complex systems depending on multiple inputs and stasis to bring us wonders beyond compare. Break that system in one place just enough, and the whole thing – not just the thing one was trying to “fix” – comes crashing down.
We used to have highly effective compounds and materials to fight contamination. Within my lifetime, we may very well be back to boiled water as the primary instrument of sterilization. If this represents progress, my hands are too small to grasp it.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca