THE OBSERVER

The art of losing

The art of losing / MARI FOUZ

"The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.”

Elizabeth Bishop


Entertained by the fiction that life is built on certainties, we suddenly learn that “the art of losing isn’t hard to master", as Elizabeth Bishop puts it in her poem One Art. From time to time, pain, an intolerable death, an illness, an economic crisis, distance, provides a wake-up call to the reality which we seek to shun by pretending that we can choose our future. This is when we learn how many losses we are able to overcome. These days, the alarm clock that collectively wakes us from our absurd dream of immortality and the protection provided by vaccines and antibiotics is particularly troubling.

We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, with 280,000 patients and 12,000 deaths, of which some 1,400 are in Spain, 191 in Catalonia. In Madrid, a city which has been particularly hard-hit, more than 800 have died and the army has begun to take charge of transporting the dead: a state of affairs which no one expected to see in a society that takes opulence to absurd lengths. However, they has already been seen in Italy, where people die at a rate of 800 a day. In Catalonia, hospitals are at breaking point and everyone is well aware that if we are unable to stem the spread of the virus and reduce the number of people admitted to hospital, even more will die next week, unable to access the healthcare they require. Community health centres and nursing homes have the potential to become death traps due to the virus's uncanny ability to spread, and young people are not as safe as they seem to believe. It is a fact that slightly over 40% of those who are admitted to one of the main hospitals in Catalonia are under the age of 50. They are more likely to recover than older patients, but they too are victims of the coronavirus. Covid-19 is neither the same as the flu nor does it affect only the elderly. It is a virus that can hit people of any age and which can have deadly consequences for patients’ lungs. Everyone is also well aware that stressful days lie ahead of us, with the virus slowly spreading and with shortages of medical supplies, ventilators in particular.

ARA’s journalists and other staff at are also preoccupied, as are we all, but we are working hard to inform everyone that we are in the midst of an extremely serious crisis and that we are aware that things will only get worse in the coming days, before the positive effects of the lockdown begin to appear. In today's edition we try to resolve people’s doubts in spite of the number of questions that remain unanswered. When one is in the middle of a storm, one can draw few firm conclusions.

To find out how we will resolve this situation in the fields of thought, economics and science, we have consulted those with the knowledge at this time of uncertainty. The philosopher Josep Ramoneda helps us to think about the vulnerability and awareness of human boundaries at a time when the usual rules do not apply and everyone is disorientated. In the scientific field, while the laboratories which are working hand in hand all over the world are unsure exactly how to combat the virus, there exist some potential solutions to help slow its exponential growth; science journalist Toni Pou tells us all about them. There are around fifty candidates for a vaccine, though in many cases the body is able to develop immunity within two weeks, while the best researchers and the best computers on the planet may take up to a year to find a vaccine. Another lesson in humility.

With regard to the economy, we are experiencing an unprecedented crisis where the supply chain will be broken and thousands more will join the ranks of those who are already unemployed. The European states will have to bear extraordinary and maybe even impossible costs, while the public finance system will have to provide liquidity to companies —with a high number of entrepreneurial fatalities— and employees and self-employed workers will be left exposed.

The situation is tough and we need to be more efficient and supportive than ever. We have to build support networks and take care of ourselves, our neighbours and our colleagues. To act as agents of joy and support, to solve problems and not add to them. As a society, we will have to become stronger and even more mature.

One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop, closes with these verses:


"Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love)
I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.”