Xoterica 29: The Sickness

Artemis Sere Xoterica 29 The Sickness

“It seems what's left of my human side
Is slowly changing in me.” (Disturbed)

Pardon my departure from Bruce Lee as the intro quote for this edition of Xoterica. I wrote this blog while suffering from virus-induced pink eye, and that called for different inspiration for this blog.

Contrary to the popular Disturbed song from the year 2000 (video featured at the end of this blog), I'm not down with the sickness. In fact, I'm sick of being sick. Sick of being cooped up. Sick of the coughs, the doldrums and the unknowns. Sick of relying on social programs to keep me afloat.

I want myself and the rest of humanity to stand up strong and resolute in the face of viral tragedy.

Easier said than done.

It feels like I've been sick forever. I can't tell you when the illness started for me, and I'm not sure if or when it will end. My days feel decent and my nights are torturous. Every day I take baby steps towards better, a new symptom or recurrence of an old one creeps back into my reality. I feel broken, useless, and exhausted from the fight.

Coronavirus or COVID-19 has been a beast of a novel virus. It has inflected millions around the world and killed thousands. Without aggressive approaches to social distancing, it could've been much worse, but it hasn't come without some severe pain for all.

Commerce and capitalism have crashed with millions sick or protecting themselves from getting sick. Unemployment numbers are at levels never seen before in modern times. Companies are getting bailouts left and right, and certain citizens were granted one-time "survival funds". Political and cultural divisions have been exacerbated by austere guidelines put in place to slow the spread of the infection.

We can all feel relieved that measures have worked and have helped us steer clear of a Spanish Flu-level apocalypse, but the reality is that our fight against the coronavirus is far from over. It's considered novel because no human has ever encountered it before, thus no immune system has a defense against it.

For the elderly, obese or people with pre-existing conditions, it is a dance with death; for the young and healthy, it is an inconvenience and silent slayer - not of the individual carrying, but to those who come in contact that can catch their asymptomatic state.

No one is safe from this virus. The best thing we can do is stay in our caves and build immunities from the fell communities. And we've done a pretty good job of distance, even if King Dictator is impatient and wanting America to get back to normal life asap. Capitalism is dying on the vine, and socialism - or programs that help humans survive and thrive - is getting renewed appreciation.

Even though I will vote for Biden, I am a full-fledged fan of former candidate Andrew Yang and his Universal Basic Income proposal. I used to support the idea as part of societal evolution and the transhumanist vision of how robots will replace humans in key jobs in the near future, reducing the active workforce. I now recognize how destabilizing global public health emergencies can be.

And how frequent they probably will become.

While SARS and MERS didnt lead to a global pandemic that dismantled the foundations of civilization, COVID-19 has - and will for years to come. It has disrupted travel, trade and economic activity. It has put 22 million people out of work in the US in a matter of a month and is escalating around the world. It has shuttered stores, restaurants, gyms, salons, schools and places of worship. It has overwhelmed hospitals and exposed systemic failures in our emergency preparedness and virus testing capabilities.

It has brought humankind to a grinding halt. With coughs, fatigue, and chills.

I truly don't know when my case began. Since it can take three weeks for serious symptoms to show, it's very possible I was sick with it in February and didn't know it. Hell, word is that the virus has been circulating since November 2019, so who knows how long it has actually been in the populous. I could've been an asymptomatic carrier until I was exposed enough to succumb to symptoms. My Mom and girlfriend were really sick in early February, but I didn't exhibit symptoms until March.

Since I've been a recluse for much of the last year, my public exposure has been limited, but could you imagine if this would've kicked in around Black Friday or Xmas? Oh the holiday horror!

The last social event I experienced was St Patrick's day lunch with my Mom. After that, everything started shutting down. Work-from-home and shelter-in-place orders became commonplace. Stores ran out if essentials, like toilet paper. Restaurants turned to take-out only services.

Pandemic led to panic.

And here we are now, a month or so into the spread, and King Dictator and his red drones want to cry "Uncle" and get the economic engines running again. Plans are being made to "re-open" the country in May, even though testing isn't accessible and the medical system is already overwhelmed. Some on the right have even claimed they'd kill or die for their country, that virus numbers are overblown and inaccurate, and the gamble is worth the tragic outcome.

I wish those assholes could say that to my face. I'd give them a piece of my virus, so they could relate.

My infection started slow, but built quickly. As someone prone to bronchial infections and pneumonia, it really was just a matter of time. I had a respiratory infection every year growing up, tend to have bronchitis in winter and have become mildly asthmatic for various reasons, including pot use for my ulcerative colitis treatment. Azithromyacin, or Z-pack, has been my common treatment for coughs and wheeze, but my antibiotic resistance is growing stronger and I'm now cautious about when I use it.

Hence, I've done my best to battle COVID-19 with vitamins and homeopathic treatments. I knew that if I went to the ER with my symptoms, I would've been put on a Z-pack and told to go back home and social distance. While my attack of the virus has been uncomfortable, there have been many worse than I, and I know they deserve the priority. There is no cure for coronavirus, just remediation of symptoms.

So I waged my own war. Shut down most interaction with the outside world. Pumped myself full of vitamins and disappeared into the haze of virus.

The cough settled in deep, but unlike previous bronchial infections, never seemed to advance further. I experienced chest rattles, dry coughs, green goo and shortness of breath. Headaches, lack of appetite and fatigue. The nights were sleepless and the days were a blur. More recently, I've experienced sinus infections and pink eye, assumedly because I've been stuck in the house for weeks and am lacking fresh air.

I haven't been officially tested and confirmed with COVID-19, but I don't need a test to tell me how sick I've been, or a Doctor to confirm my symptoms and tell me to do what I've already been doing. My distance has saved lives, at least saved the health of others and my beloved.

There's so much about this new bug that we still don't know, but as we normally do as arrogant humans, we think we have it under control. Where it came from is relatively irrelevant. As overpopulation becomes the norm on our little blue dot, viruses of unknown origin and of which we have no defense, will become more commonplace. Humankind is too interconnected to believe we're safe from this happening again, next time with more dire results. Mutations of viruses are happening with stunning regularity, and expose the flaws in our human affluence and overconfidence.

While we fight each other over benign things such as abortion, gay rights and immigration, the next viral bullet is sliding into the chamber and waiting for the trigger to be pulled. We could use COVID-19 as the event that harmonizes humanity and brings us closer together to solve global problems.

Instead, we point fingers and conduct rallies to return to normalcy.

The wise creature would accept that things will never be normal and the same as before, that the war we're waging against the biological world will continue long after we're dead. The prudent approach would be to prepare ourselves for the next wave, or the next novel antagonist this race will face. We've danced with viral death before, and should be able to set aside our arrogance, affectations and addictions for the sake of humanity. Instead of making things better for all, we wish upon Kingdoms, commerce and deities for deliverance and protection.

Wishful thinking will be our wanton undoing. Instead of asking when we will get back to normal, we should be working together to define a new, better normal for all. COVID-19 wont be the last bug humankind wages war against.

And loses.

#xoterica #humanfirst

We Are The Wounded

Artemis Sere Obscurious We Are the Wounded

From "Obscurious", Version 8: Page 114, Published 2011

(This blog was originally published May 31, 2013. Updated and bumped to due relevance with the Coronavirus.)

In 2010, I met a man named Randall "Randy" Bunde. I tend to gravitate towards people that have a calm, sensitive presence. Randy was a tall fish in short water, with a gentle sensibility and pain-infused wisdom that you could read on his slight brow.

He'd weathered much over his 48 years--a heartwrenching divorce, distancing of his kids, and Colitis, a chronic condition that limits the effectiveness of your gastric organs. Few realize how impossible life becomes when your pipes don't work. You can't eat well, drink well, sleep well, function well as a normal human being. Pain is your center and your constant; discomfort and internal stress are your daily truths.

He knew my path well, as he walked a similar road in the early stages of his declining health. While I was fortunate to find a way to achieve equilibrium with the curses, he was not so. He went from pouch surgery to cancer in various places, seldom finding the healthy plateau that the chronically stricken wish for.  Last March, he passed away from complications of cancer, initiated by the ulcerative chronic state that struck him years before. While I was healing, he was falling apart--the two of us true dichotomies of chronic results.

Today, my friend would have been 50 years old. I wrote this poem for him and about him while he was still alive, a tribute to the war that those people who have chronic health conditions wage every day. Every minute. Every second. Every bowel movement, and every glass of water that doesn't go down well.

We are all wounded, in different ways, and it is true madness that we as a species can't find a way to take care of each other, as needed.

We have become as disposable as our consumer mindset.

I had no idea that Randy would exit from my orbit so quickly--a second lesson to keep close: life is fleeting, so treasure the precious moments that you have with you true friends, family and loved ones.

Happy birthday, Randy. Lightspeed, my dear friend.


in sickness
or in health
is not a choice
we have, but
a bond we all share
to care
for the fallen
and the wounded
of our world
for we each walk
on either side of that
crimson line
where decay becomes
the color of our days,
where there is no detour
and there is no escape,
one morning risen,
the next mourning,
a wake,
we all break down and
eventually lose our way
and even the chosen
must pay with life
for their grace
you are no different,
no better, not great
and at some point
you too will fall
into sickness and
require assistance
to stand up

Artemis Sere Obscurious We Are the Wounded

SERESTATIC: The Breathing Virus

Artemis Sere Serestatic The Breathing Virus
Sunday, April 5, 2020. 45°. Sunny.
"And once the storm is over
You won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive.

You won’t even be sure, in fact, that the storm is over.
But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm,
You won’t be the same person who walked in.
That’s what this storm is all about."

The world has mostly melted now, the seasons have changed dramatically since my last update. Warmer weather and thunderstorms have pushed the frozen world away, and the green of renewal can be seen across the landscape. I can feel the welcome warmth of summer in the air, but it doesn't feel as inspiring and enlivening as it once did.
A year ago, I left the cushy, comfortable stability of a global corporate job for an unknown world - a future of grit, struggle and fire. I wanted to be a welder, even though it paid poorly and was a stark turn away from my professional history. My metalmorphosis was about surviving as the workers do, understanding their pain and pathway, and living a life of activity and action centered around my art. And telling the story of it. I thought my network would follow along, that all the great people that once praised my talent, production and creative output would be on the ride with me. I thought the universe would provide and come to my aid, that the successes that I had experienced over the last decade would carry into my new adventure. I listened to the wise therapists that said "live your adventure and take risks".
And so I did, and I can truthfully say that I'm now at one of the lowest points in my life. One year removed from my decision, and not a single thing has went as I hoped or planned, apart from having time to focus on my art and art product. I published one of the coolest things I ever have, and the act has felt pointless - far removed from how I thought I'd feel after publishing my 4th book. Yes, the gallery book was developed as a tool to organize my gallery, but it's also a color representation of my gallery, far cheaper than purchasing a piece of my work or spending money to experience multiple individual gallery shows of mine. It is valuable to anyone that cares about my art. I thought the audience I built would appreciate that.
I was wrong.
Even before the virus hit, my art was fading from view and memory, with only a few wonderful people putting passion behind their praise.
Now, I seldom paint. The fires of creativity inside of me have been replaced by worry, regret and frustration at a world that continues to spin and recycle lies. Leaving Facebook and Instagram were good for my soul, as it was a constant reminder of how hollow the praise of people can be. I helped build social media into the beast it is today, through advocacy armies and social strategy and content curation. I trained many on how to use social media, and lauded the benefits of the space. Those trainings and teachings have proved useful to many now that civilization has recessed into caves to dodge the virus.
Social media once made me feel valued and valuable.
Things will never be the same in our world, and the digital experience has been given new life and new meaning now that we observe forced distance. But social media will never replace the necessity of face-to-face interaction, something that was lost on me during all the years I pushed social media and tried to push my brand to new heights and broader audience. The audience metrics were always sweet, but the engagement metrics were deplorable.
I should've recognized that long ago, but there was too much money to be made as part of our current economic engine. We now live by Amazon and remote deliveries. We Happy Hour and meet using Zoom and other digital services. We breathe constant news feeds telling us how bad physical human contact has become, that we should wear masks (if we can find them), stay 6' apart, avoid gatherings and opportunities to spread the disease. Unemployment could hit 20-30%. Companies are freezing jobs and hunkering down. Millions may die, at least hundreds of thousands in the United States. There's a war for ppe, and my former company is on the front lines of criticism by elected officials.
"Our country wasn't built for this, our country wasn't built to be shut down".
No country is. No civilization is. Modern civilization involves a class and caste system that requires poorly-funded and protected slaves. Our King recently met with the heads of all of the professional Gladiator teams in America, and they whined about how their entertainment products are suffering with the country faltering as it faces the toughest test in our young history. People need the comfort of their overpaid Gladiators, they argue. Culture is more important than caution, they demand.
Even grayhairs claim that they'll die for the country, as if they're the only group affected by a bug so viral that you can catch it simply breathing around someone. Our martyrs are those people fighting the bug on the front lines of society - the under-prepared health care workers, delivery people, grocery store workers and caretakers, just to name a few. All else is overhead these days, contributors to an economic engine that cares little for cogs of its wheels.
After my divorce in 2001, I remember looking for a job, even while fighting with a dire chronic condition and suffering mightily. I remember sitting in an interview room with Aon Financial when the towers fell, watching the tragedy on the screen with awe and fear. The world felt very unfamiliar then. It's sad to say that it feels like history is repeating, with the great global human society faltering with a simple breath of the virus.
The world feels very unfamiliar now. Most of the people that I've met since that time have drifted away, leaving a handful of faithful and interested friends. All of the work experience I've had seems useless in the face of massive human tragedy, and spinning the wheels seems like the last thing I should be looking to do.
But I am, and the landscape is more dismal than ever. Few jobs. Few opportunities. No affordable health care. An administration that I don't trust. The rich get richer and the poor get lost in the mix.
And we want things to get "back to normal". I say "Fuck normal".
My girlfriend is a grocery store worker, working sick and sick of working around dangerous environments. She  learned yesterday that her brother has liver cancer and needs a transplant. The poor guy needs to have chemo treatment, have a major organ transplant, and needs to survive and thrive with a new liver. He's an electrician - not rich, not affluent, not connected - the salt of the earth type of person that I set out on my journey to learn from and try to help.
Chances are very good that the process will decimate any financial stability he has, and may require help from many other sources to survive (eg. myself and my girlfriend). Chances are good that he will contract the virus with his compromised system. Care has been inconsistent during the virus, and he has waited months to get the cancer  diagnosis that the affluent can get in days.
This is a terrible time to be struggling with a debilitating health condition.
When I was suffering from severe ulcerative colitis and the doctors wanted to perform a colostomy on me (incidentally, doctors were never able to pinpoint the cause of why my colitis set in, other than my lifestyle), I felt the same hopelessness. Hopelessness that I would heal. Hopelessness about my survival. Hopelessness that I would have a normal life.
Scott will never have "normal" again, thanks to a system that only takes care of those that can afford it. He lived a life of excess, never questioning the ripple effects of living drunk or living unhealthy. He trashed his liver living a life that our culture has encouraged. He is now paying for his poor choices.
As I sit here coughing intermittently, with headaches and fever and chills every so often, I know I'll never have a "normal" again either. I'm not asymptomatic; I'm not fully well; and I'm not sure what I have. Unable to have a virus test, I do my best to manage my own health with vitamins and adequate rest, knowing that I have "something" that I could pass onto others. The choices of the last year have jeopardized my professional "career", destroyed my artistic confidence, and put me on a path of self-destruction that has no precedent. The virus has shrunk the world down to my level of desperation.
And, like Scott, I'm just tired. Tired of the lies. Tired of the games. Tired of walking a stormy path. Tired of breathing in this bitter virus called "civilization", the system of excess and inequality that is as callous as our leaders. Don't let the self-help bullshit fool you: success is not guaranteed, and the universe will not come to your rescue, should you drift from your afforded comfort.
Ultimately, I'm reminded of a great song by a favorite band of mine, Morcheeba. Entitled "Self-Made Man", the song is a good reminder of how we're all connected, how we all have a responsibility to care for each other, and how the system we current live in is broken.
Will we ever learn from the flaws in our plans?
"There's no such thing
As a self made man
Enjoy the flaws
In the best laid plans"
Artemis Sere Serestatic The Breathing Virus