Today, I am grieving.
I am thinking of a paper published on January 26, 2020,
and my heart aches to see the chasm between what is now …
and what could have been.
On April 4, 2020, I wrote briefly about “invisible histories,” a concept to which author Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced me.
I then gratefully called these histories “other versions of history.” Today, grieving, I’ll call them:
the histories that weren’t, but could have been.
Four months ago yesterday, Taleb was among three authors to co-publish a short, compelling piece on constraining COVID-19. This paper’s authors wrote that quick, decisive action was necessary to prevent utter devastation due to novel pathogens like COVID-19.
The paper’s authors presented very specific measures to effectively limit COVID-19’s impact. In the paper’s conclusion, the authors write, “It will cost something to [appropriately] reduce mobility in the short term, but to fail do so will eventually cost everything.”
Instead of taking quick, decisive action globally, various localities took haphazard, often ill considered measures and hoped for the best.
Four months ago yesterday, Taleb and his co-authors gave the world the opportunity to create a different range of histories than the one we’re creating now:
an alternative history where a thousand people died, or ten thousand, instead of one hundred thousand people, so far, in the United States alone.
Today, I grieve the loss of histories that could have been.
I grieve for every life needlessly lost so far,
and every life that will yet be lost,
and I pray global leaders choose to take the specific measures required to actually defeat COVID-19.
We cannot now call forth the kinder, now-lost possible histories that were possible on January 26, 2020,
but the steps we take right now can make a world of difference between
whether those who live later mourn millions
or “merely” the hundreds of thousands so lost
By our wise acts tomorrow,
we may help make our later visible histories
kinder than the ones we are making possible—
by our lack of