It suddenly struck me how amazing viruses actually are. I should get over my thinking that they look ugly and scary, and appreciate how they work. While their effects are genuinely complex, they tempt me to imagine that they themselves are merely complicated.
Perhaps viruses are also scary because they challenge us to contemplate systems that have aims and rules and ethos without an animal will or instinct, without consciousness of “good” or “evil”. And with our Western science fiction frame of reference, they evoke images of robots, pseudo-lifeforms that inspire fear by their complete lack of passion or compassion. They are so utterly logical, yet they do not actually think. And humans at least want an argument.
The marvel is that we can’t even admire their surival instinct, their symbiotic or parasitic strategies, because they’re not consciously strategic. And that makes us realise how little of anything is consciously strategic anyway. Many moments and instances of life are just situationally tactical. We tend to want to anthropomorphise all sorts of creatures, to ascribe motivations and a will to even the tiniest things. Viruses are the dispassionate reality that challenge us to laugh at our lofty notions of pseudo-divine betterment through any kind of evolution. Viruses remind the existentialist that her entire value system in all its emotional glory and “I’ll die for this” conviction, is merely a choice.