I had a dream a few nights ago. I walked through a doorway from the street and entered a room. It had no windows and the walls were completely black. Not painted black but covered with thick black grease, hanging off the walls in little pendulous peaks. At first the room seemed empty but then, on the left side in the near darkness, I saw a table, similarly covered. And then, with a shock, the scarcely-visible figure of a man sitting behind the table, also totally grease-black, with no facial features whatsoever. “What is this place?”, I asked him. “A museum”, he replied. “I close in half an hour. You’ve just got time to look round.” Despite noting that there did not seem to be any exhibits to inspect, I felt a curiosity, but also a sense of urgency and dread. Something was wrong and was calling me away. “I haven’t got time”, I replied quickly and walked out of the door back into the street. Then I awoke.
Just after my dream, the Queen, the corona-wearing head of state, gave a televised broadcast to rally the nation. Beside her on a desk was a miniature red rose growing in a trough-shaped blue-and-white ceramic pot. It was covered in blooms, but one flower was conspicuously drooping over the long side of the pot, and a small branch was similarly dangling in shadow over the short end. Were these deliberately positioned by someone aware of the power of symbolism, or accidental? A tear of blood and a general melancholy? Intentional or coincidental, there is no other explanation. All is not right in the world, anything but right.
Covid-19 has its roots in the nineteen-hundreds, the age when we began seriously to plunder the earth for its riches, to live off the irreplaceable fat of the land as if there were no tomorrow. Maybe now there is no tomorrow. When we began to exterminate the native flora and fauna of all lands, as man asserted his dominance as never before. Advances in medical science were geared to ensuring that we remained healthy while our planet was dying. This could not last. There were warnings. Poisoning from chemicals increased. Cancer rates increased. Bacteria became resistant to our elaborately synthesised antibiotics. Wars broke out in many countries as cruel and greedy tyrants, frequently exploiting religious divisions, asserted their dominance and stopped at nothing to eliminate rivals.
But everything has its purpose in the evolution of the world. The Black Death was followed by the Renaissance, the Great Plague by the development of the democratic United Kingdom we know today. What will follow this pandemic? An end to aggressive nationalism? An end to greed? The elevation of humanity out of savagery? A massive curb on greenhouse gas emissions? A respect for nature as co-created equally with ourselves? A unification of humankind based on an acceptance that it shares a universal spirituality, not a multiplicity of spiritualities each dependent on beliefs and practices that the majority of other human beings do not share? It is to be hoped all of these and more. Much more, for much more is needed.
While the crisis as I write is in no way behind us, either personally or collectively, my time travel is significant. I was a visitor from the future to a museum commemorating a period of immense tribulation. There was no need for labelled exhibits. It was all there in that room. The blackness of a fearful, windowless night with no dawn in sight. The sticky, cloying grease that smears everything in an indelible film of destruction. The table with nothing on it to offer comfort, only more of the same. The faceless custodian a satanic bringer of pestilence wreaking vengeance on humanity for its misdeeds. I was right not to linger. I will not linger there until the threats are gone, until the rose and branch are erect and proud and humanity has learnt its lessons and moved on to a better future.
by Michael Bloom