Coronavirus, Climbing, and Social Responsibility

Coronavirus, Climbing, and Social Responsibility

Posted by Fred Knapp on 14th Mar 2020

I was a corona-disbeliever a few days ago. I’ve changed my mind.

These are tough times. It’s snowy outside and I want to go to the climbing gym, but I won’t any longer—it’s just flat-out socially irresponsible. My kids are home from school; it will be difficult to balance work and a confined family. I can whine and complain, I can be angry because there’s not enough COVID-19 test kits or toilet paper. Or, I could embrace the situation.

Don’t get me wrong, the pandemic will affect my life and my business—I have four books going to print in Korea, rock gyms may be slow to pay and can’t sell books if they’re closed. I know they’ll be layoffs, investment losses, and poor morale, but these will reverse over time.

I have two sisters who have lived overseas for decades: one in Korea, the other in Austria (a four-hour drive from Venice). Like us, they’ve been asked to make sacrifices. In Korea, where everyone has done their part—observing social distancing and quarantining when necessary—the virus is losing ground. It’s easier in Korea because they have test kits, but culturally they are, simply, more socially responsible.

An enraged friend called yesterday. He spent six hours in his vehicle at an urgent care that offered tests. His adult son is sick with a fever, though they don’t think it’s COVID-19. In the end, they were turned away. I can understand being upset. A negative test result would mean they’re free to go out, but now they're asked to sacrifice without knowing. Yes, dammit, we’re asked to make sacrifices.

In the height of his rumination, he declared, “It’s best we all just get it and get it over with.” While it may be true that most of us will get COVID-19 within a year, the important thing is that we don’t all get it at once. A doctor acquaintance shared imagery of an overwhelmed health care system: packed hospitals, sick medical professionals, lack of ventilators, and shortage of beds. Pulling plastic or going to a party is not worth this.

It’s tempting to be angry with the government; maybe it makes us feel better to rage. The virus isn’t political, however. We can’t change the test-kit situation. If you want to do something about it, be socially responsible.

So, here is what I am going to do: spend quality time with my family, enjoy the outdoors, climb outside (locally) with friends, raft the Colorado. You could choose to binge-watch Netflix, play video games, prepare elaborate meals, or read books. But it’s time to be present, to be mindful, to embrace the sacrifices so that they are no longer sacrifices. My shoulders need a break from the steep gym routes; my soul needs the outdoors; my family could benefit from time together.

Years ago, during the Boulder Creek flood, I came home late from kayaking to a frightened family trying to keep water from coming into the garage. It was pouring, thundering, and…beautiful. In the dark, I pulled out paddle boards and had the kids join me in the flooded lot next door. To that end, I sent my teenager to the store in the midst of the pandemic panic so he could see the craziness and empty aisles. We’ll look back at this in 20, 30, 50 years as one of the pivotal markers of our time, if not all time. Social distancing will, in fact, bring us closer together.