Lost Day

There’s a continuity of life and we’re used to it with only small, regular interruptions, such as a night’s sleep.  Each day builds on the previous one with plans being fulfilled, projects attempted, and yes, work.  Then something happens to disrupt that and it’s like starting over again.  I imagine (and feel for), for instance, those who’ve lost everything to Hurricane Ian are going through it.  They are reassessing and rebuilding, even as around here we’re beginning to get some of its rain.  A break in continuity may be smaller, however, and on an individual scale.  I had, for example, my first Shingrix vaccine in January.  Never having reacted to any vaccine before I was completely caught off guard when the next day I couldn’t get out of bed.  But more than that, I knew this was a two-part vaccine, and I was going to face this again.

I kept putting it off.  I needed to have a day when continuity could be broken so that I could recover.  That’s always tricky because I’m busy all the time.  I’ve got a book manuscript under a December deadline and I have to work every weekday.  Yesterday I took a personal day and had Shingrix 2 after work on Thursday.  Yesterday was a lost day.  Although I knew this was an important vaccine, like the various Covid vaccines I’ve had, I wasn’t ready for the consequences.  With short periods of wakefulness, I slept until 1:30 in the afternoon, unable to do anything.  Feverish, I couldn’t read without falling back asleep.  Working on my book was out of the question.  Meanwhile, emails kept coming in, asking for this or that.

The lost day takes some time for recovery.  It’s not nearly so bad as those who’ve lost their homes and communities because of this massive storm that’s tapping its outer fringes on my windows right now.  Still, I have to try to remember where I left off.  Amazingly, after sleeping for some seventeen hours, I was nevertheless ready for bed at the usual time last night.  The nurse who gave me the vaccine assured me that it was better than having the actual disease.  I don’t doubt that.  Those I know who’ve had shingles warn that it’s nothing to mess with.  Still, I sit here slightly stunned this early Saturday morning, wondering where I left off before all of this began.  The continuity has been temporarily broken, and I lost a day in there.  I’d forgotten what it’s like to sit in a chilly room before sunrise with a tabula rasa before me.  But I do recall that I have a final manuscript due in a couple months.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Ouch! Ouch!

The cold and flu season seems to have had an extended life this year, what with snow still falling in April and yet another week of cooler weather in the forecast. Although there’s no cure for the common cold, we do have the ability to prevent many maladies with a vaccine. Under eight years of Republican governance, New Jersey had become quite friendly to those who don’t want their kids vaccinated, despite being the most densely populated state in the union. The reason many objectors give? “It’s against my religion.” There was a massive outcry recently when a bill was approved that requires religious objectors to state what their religion is and what exact tenet of that religion vaccination actually violates. The statements of those opposed show that religion was largely being used as an excuse by those who didn’t want their children inoculated. Confirmation class has a purpose after all.

Social responsibility, of course, reaches beyond the home. In fact, it begins as soon as we open the door. Add to that the fact that most people can’t describe the basic beliefs of their own religion accurately and you have a real case for contagion. When you sign up to join a religion—what a capitalistic idea!—you generally go through training classes to let you know what you’re publicly proclaiming you believe. Given that religion deals with everlasting consequences, you might think most people would pay close attention, embedding the facts deeply. That, however, often isn’t the case. Beliefs are handed down like family heirlooms, or are gleaned from watching television (usually Fox). One’s religion is useful for making excuses, but people hate to be challenged on this point.

In the right’s continuing war on social responsibility, they’ve been pumping the media full of anti-vaccine fear. Vaccines, they’ll aver, use human embryos. Any other other form of conspiracy theory can be used to turn hoi polloi against them. Our society was built into what it is by as many people as possible agreeing that when it comes to the good of all, individual prejudices sometimes have to be overlooked. It’s natural enough for parents to be concerned for the wellbeing of their children. It’s sadly ironic when their “religion” tells them that the most basic protections are somehow evil. Who can help but to think of Abraham holding the knife above a bound Isaac on the altar? That is, if they happen to be of a certain religion, and if they paid attention during their version of confirmation class.


Losing My Religion (Excuse)

I’ve always appreciated New Jersey inventiveness. This is a state where lottery winners register with the social security numbers of dead people to avoid taxes. Politicians and honest folk both seem to resort to inventive means of getting around the system. A recent article in the New Jersey Star-Ledger brought this home. An uproar has developed, it seems, over a more stringent regulation concerning religious exemptions for vaccines. If the bill passes, parents and guardians opting out of vaccines for their children will have to state their religion and the cause for the objection. Many have been suggesting this is government of the worst kind, because, well, it wasn’t really a religious reason that they used the religion waiver. Have you met my dead relative? He recently won the lottery.

A timeless problem that arises from a situation such as this is the issue of defining religion. We’re not really sure what it is, other than a reason for not preventing disease. Experts disagree about the essential components of religion. Since the concept of God is up for grabs, doing what pleases said deity (or not, depending on whether a religion has a deity) would seem to be part of it. Most religions, whatever they are, suggest honesty is a virtue. And honestly, most religions have no trouble with vaccines. The paper even had a helpful chart of religions, even indicating that Christian Scientists and Jehovah’s Witnesses have no issues, really, with vaccines. Clearly some churches do. One suspects other may have had such regulations, but they eventually died off.

Since we can’t bother to define religion, it becomes a most convenient excuse for just about any kind of deviant behavior. Many religions exist; more than most people even suspect. Sects of Christianity alone number around 40,000, and that’s leaving aside all other religious traditions and their many splinter groups. Truly held religion, as the media often underscores, can lead to extreme behaviors. The only way to come to grips with this is to try to understand what religion actually is. The most logical locus for such study would be universities. Many of them are run by states. States that are afraid of breeching that wall of separation. Even in the cause of public health. In my opinion, funding the study of religion could be a real shot in the arm. But then, so could winning the lottery.

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