This Winter a Heaviness Hangs in the Air

The pandemic seems to be all but over. The economy isn’t spinning out of control. President Biden has kept a steady hand on the helm. But monstrous problems threaten to overwhelm us. Putin’s maniacal attempt to conquer Ukraine threatens not just the survival of that country, but all humanity. The same may be said for the rise of authoritarianism and erosion of democratic institutions throughout the world. A sign of the times is this past week’s revelation that Fox News media icons knowingly spread falsehoods imperiling the survival of American democracy in order to maintain their viewer ratings. The seeming helplessness of our species to combat climate change, evidenced by a water crisis that will require water rationing western states, the demonstrated corrosive effect of social media, the evidence that greed and cynicism are ascendant, and the malignant effects of gross income and wealth inequality are all deeply disturbing. If we think of humanity as if it were a single person who had been submitted to a medical exam, multiple malignancies would have been found. Ones in Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran are particularly worrisome, appearing more likely to metastasize than be contained.