What can I say that hasn’t already been said? What can I express that hasn’t already been expressed among millions of people around the world? This year will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most challenging. The most tragic. The most hostile. The most… apocalyptic.
The word “pandemic” literally became the word of the year according to Webster’s. A word that maybe a handful of us encountered in science fiction disaster movies or archaic medical textbooks. And yet it is also a word that has been debated primarily in the United States; the very existence of a pandemic-by definition-was (and tragically in some circles) still is underplayed or even denied. Over three hundred thousand dead as I write this sentence… and yet some still deny.
I learned a very interesting word the other day: “apophenia.” It refers to the human tendency of seeing patterns and connections in random bits of information that aren’t really there and (obviously) not true. I came across this word while reading “The Unidentified” by Colin Dickey. It’s a book about the history, science, psychology, and anthropology behind conspiracy theories. The book mentioned these unproven occurrences like alien abductions, Bigfoot sightings, or The Lost City of Atlantis to name a few.
And yet I can’t help but come to the conclusion that this term, according to the book, meant to explain and (dare I say) try to justify these wild stories of fantasy, has been the backbone of what many of us have chosen to believe or experience as this year has unfolded. I, as an American living in America, and the rest of my countrymen have been led by the most influential and consistent contributor of apophenia in my lifetime. According to the book, these people are referred to as “cranks” as if they were part of a machine and the more people (or “cranks”) that you can recruit into your way of thinking the bigger and more unstoppable the machine becomes.
But now as 2020 comes to an end and claws into oblivion like Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant,” I know that we’re not out of the woods yet. Hospitals are out of ICU beds, there are over 10,000 new infections a day in my home state alone. The good news is that in an unprecedented achievement of science and the human spirit, a vaccine (several, in fact, from different companies) have already started to be distributed. If you believe the timeline told to us, every American should be able to be administered the vaccine by late spring/early summer 2021.
Normally, people will convince themselves in January of a new year, “This is going to be my year.” However, I believe that 2021 will begin bittersweet as many of us remember our loved ones who died and couldn’t be with us. We will remember how we were forced to say goodbye to them from a Zoom call or (if we’re lucky) through a hospital window. 2021, no matter what transpires, will be the year that we will all look at and collectively tell ourselves, no matter what you believed or experienced in 2020, “I hope I never have to go through that again.”