This is about Dar and your and my coronavirus fears, but give me a minute to get there.
I know America hasn’t been united much lately, which is why it’s so nice to see that America managed to unite in hatred against the video of celebrities in isolation singing along to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Well, it’s still one of my favorite songs. At my mother’s funeral service at the Berkeley Rose Garden, 15 years ago, 100 or so people sang it in unison. For my righteous-hippie, John Lennon-loving mom, it was a great send-off.
But this week, a group of celebrities failed to read the room. A more popular (let’s not say “viral”) recent meme said that Generation X is best disposed to tackle the coronavirus because we’re accustomed to being neglected. I preferred the meme response that said…uh no, Generation X is doing this right because right now we’re in the middle of the sandwich, with parents at severe risk and kids that we’re terrified for.
In the context of coronavirus, I’m very lucky not to have my parents alive to worry about. On the other hand, I generally feel unlucky not to see them at all. I don’t love thinking that they worked hard, accumulated a bunch of money, died, left it to me, and…a lot of it now has to go to keep Dar in care? That seems such a waste. Almost a betrayal. Sometimes I think I’m lucky Mom isn’t here to see that.
If Dar could somehow be used for medical research, I’d feel better. But I contacted UC Davis and UCSF about this, and hit a series of walls. I’m certainly not going to try them again right now. I know, life is about more than that, but life is on pause, and I can’t help but think about how I wish I could improve the picture. We named him after science. We are also people of faith. Faith in science.
Another celebrity who wasn’t in the “Imagine” video but may have also misread the room was Kumail Nanjiani, who tweeted “Dear everyone who bugged us for the last 10 years to have kids…where you at now?” (He later deleted the tweet.) The thing is…I love my kids, but I get what he means! (Also his wife is severely immunocompromised; he made a movie about it called The Big Sick.)
Nanjiani is Pakistani-American. His ancestors were very familiar with a concept called karma. My ancestors were not! Most white people hadn’t heard of karma until after the release of another song from around the time of my birth by John Lennon, called Instant Karma (We All Shine On).
For as long as I can remember, I’ve understood karma as the concept that what comes around, goes around, or as John’s friend Paul put it around the same time, “the love you take is equal to the love you make.” I hope it was true for my parents. I hope it’s true for me. I hope it’s true for Dar.
Speaking of Generation X, as I just was, I’ll admit something I don’t usually admit: when I see people acting as spokespeople for Generation X, I think, hey, I did that first! (Somehow my name isn’t on Newsweek’s link, though, meaning I don’t get credit, which is also very Generation X.) And I think…shouldn’t I have made more of that little media splash? Like a successful web presence of some kind?
I sometimes remind myself of Robert Downey Jr. talking to James Lipton about Less Than Zero, where Downey said that he got the role and then spent the next decade doing the research for it. (He was joking about his drug problem.) I founded the discourse on “slackers,” was the first to complain that we were the first generation that would do worse than our parents (still true!), took a big swipe at Donald Trump, and then…I walked away from it because I felt embarrassed about most of the rest of it. (Even now I can’t defend the whining.) Perhaps a smarter or more opportunistic person would have done more with it…and maybe generated some better karma? For me and my family?
As another birthday passes, as coronavirus makes me face my own death, I think: has karma come around? Was my karma hurt by my hubris after the Newsweek piece or at USC or in other points of my career? I certainly never killed or physically assaulted anyone, I never really hurt anyone, but maybe I didn’t do enough to ameliorate pain either. Maybe I never really helped enough strangers to deserve better karma. I can see that.
What’s harder to see is how Dar’s dharma (his reality) doesn’t deserve better karma. I mean, when does he get a break? Is it enough to be the only 10-year-old in a 10-block radius who doesn’t know we’re facing a virus crisis? Somehow that doesn’t feel like enough.
I would have preferred that those “Imagine”-singing celebs had sung “Instant Karma,” because I would have loved to have heard the harmonize-shouting of “WE ALL SHINE ON!” That, as much as anything, is our coronavirus reaction. I mean shining on in both the senses that I believe Lennon meant. (Many years ago, I almost got a tattoo of John Lennon; at the last minute I decided to get the walrus that he said he was.) We shine on in that we put light into each other’s lives. But we also shine on in that we blow off or dismiss things that we maybe shouldn’t have dismissed.
I put light into Dar’s life, he puts light into mine. But he (dis)misses a lot, and I may be (dis)missing a lot too. Today I’m just going to honor that for a minute. Like the moon, and the stars, and the sun.
John Lennon sang, “Why are we here? Surely not to live in pain and fear.”
Fair question during a coronavirus pandemic when we have no idea if or when we’ll get tested or sick.
“Why on earth are you there? When you’re everywhere? Come and get your share!”
In other words, WE’RE COMING FOR THE TESTS. Until then, faith in science and some kind of karma will have to do for this particular Dar-ma.