When things aren’t going well in the present, it’s a natural thing to want to retreat to the past. It’s escape: even if the past you’re inhabiting isn’t particularly happy or even pleasant, it is a known quantity.
So really, escape is escape from the unknown.
But sometimes the past escapes its chronological bonds and rises to the present: a sense-trigger or an event, a memory hyperlinked to that past or even a kind of full duplex déjà vu where a present thought makes a past one feel familiar in new way.
I’m the kind of person who listens to sad songs when I’m happy. And I like listening to happy songs when I’m sad. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully capable of wallowing, but when emotion doesn’t override sense of self, I have a better appreciation of those things that are Other to the present. The sometimes-solemnity in happiness, the often-absurdity in sadness.
World AIDS Day this year, this day, is very much a present day experience. AIDS wasn’t about the HIV particle, it was about suffering at the hands of something none of us saw coming, and a thing of such magnitude that none of us could truly appreciate until it was far too late.
And then the deaths kept coming. Dying and dying and dying, where 20-somethings and 30-somethings took to hunting the Obits section of the paper every day out of the same kind of pragmatism that much, much older people do as a matter of course.
They say that global AIDS may be over as soon as 2030. That’s astoundingly great news, given how many non-scientific, non-medical hurdles had to be overcome just to get started in addressing it in a significant way.
And I’m not blaming the homophobes: lots of us homoPHILES didn’t want to believe it was happening. Didn’t think there needed to be such a huge effort to address it. Thought that it would be over in a matter of months when there was another new pill for another STD.
Before AIDS, there had always been a pill or a shot for whatever you sometimes got when body fluids mixed and made contact.
So on this World AIDS Day, I wonder: who recognizes in Today that believing “there’s a pill to fix whatever ails ya” is what happened Before?