We’re shut down and shut in, and we know why. We’re not children who hear the reasons to wear a mask and keep distance, and still say why. We’re not going to avoid what Dr. Fauci calls the “universal” remedy because we want to go out and play or eat in a restaurant or hook up with a stranger. We’re not going to listen to the man who caters to the basest instincts of egoism and tough-guy posturing and paranoia, and who could not care less about your happiness, your prosperity, or your health...except as they aggrandize him.

This is pandemic. We’re not panicking. We’re dealing. We recognize that putting on a mask does not impinge on our freedom, no more than wearing pants keeps us bound. In fact, putting on a mask does much to ensure our freedom to stay alive. When we put on a mask, we’re also saying we’re in it, this project, this group effort to remedy a group problem. The mask does a tangible good and it does a symbolic one. Both are for you as much as for us.

In our stick-to-your-guns country, headed to real self-harm, how do we get to compromise? How do we stomach the other side and find a mutual good? How do we help to keep everyone alive? One way is to see them, those other people. And one way to do that is to read them, their stories, their griefs, their challenges, their blunders and surprises and loves.

 

As editors we can sometimes discern political affiliations in a piece of work, but that’s fruitless profiling. The word’s the thing. And words are the way to connect. In this issue we start in Greece, at a meal with a gentle bloviator whose self-aggrandizement is driven by loneliness and lost dreams, only he knows it. We enter a cliffside monastery in Tibet where lust and jealousy are as present as they are down the street. We journey with a daughter as she remembers her coming-of-age “bests” in Wilmington, Delaware, during a period of turbulent justice-seeking in 1968. And the book begins and ends in Florida, a split state, troubled and hot.

Wearing the mask, reading the words, we see Forster’s epigraph from Howard’s End: “Only connect...”

Jeffrey Heiman, Adam Berlin

New York City
November 2020

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