A reading of the literature for the Great Plague in London (1665) for example, will reveal that pestilence has often spread in ways that are uneven in both pace and extent and more than a little dumfounding.
The apocalypses we imagine and then pay to witness tend to be simple and brutal in premise. Yet I have often wondered why we don't speculate just a little bit more around partial rather than near total apocalypses, calamities where the breakdowns are just a bit more selective, where only one or two key switches in civilisation’s fuse box have been flipped.
The novel coronavirus that has brought the modern world partially to its knees is a very slippery character indeed. Far far more contagious than its predecessor, and potentially lethal to an uncertain number of human beings from a frustratingly imprecise sub-set of the species.
Our current obsession with testing has more to do with pinning the little bugger down than providing a proper solution.
There seem to be just too many ways to cut the cake and one ends up with the suspicion that this indeterminacy is a fundamental part of the MO of the virus and one that it is somehow exploiting.
In this it has almost dream-like qualities: the moment of potential intelligibility turns out to be but a blink away from the collapse into the ungraspable.
Here in Guatemala one might even want to examine the ways in which the contagion co-evolves with the measures taken to suppress it.
About a month ago my wife pinpointed this formally sneaky aspect of the pandemic when she referred to the behaviour of SARS-CoV-2 as 'mathematical'. Then we watched this interview with one Dr Djaballah conducted by the Korea Times, in which his use of the adjective cryptic really chimed with us.
Now, while I am (almost) never a subscriber to conspiracy theories, the patterns we are seeing with this virus would not be that hard to stigmatise as the work of a human agent determined to dick around with the basic settings of SARS-CoV-1.
And yet, back in January, one of the principal arguments deployed against the conspiracy theories was that any cabal of super-villains in a hidden lab would surely have chosen to elaborate a bug that would be far more lethal and in a sense, far more simple. Would they, really?
Like any other conclusions we draw, this one is going to have to be provisional.