“Personally, I don’t need an immediate license to party like it’s February 2020, but I want some indication from lawmakers and medical experts that restrictions won’t last forever. For any country without the discipline, collectivism, and surveillance technology of China, the zero-COVID dream is over. Two years is long enough to put our lives on hold.” – Helen Lewis, The Atlantic, January 11, 2022

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This pandemic has gone long enough. Millions have died from COVID-19. Millions more have suffered and are suffering long-term effects on their physical and mental health. Our economy is hemorrhaging workers. Our kids are not back in school. We must act now.

It is time to return to normality. It is time to move past the pandemic. It is time to escape our human shells and upload ourselves to the Metaverse.

Hear me out. Now, you might be thinking, Friend, isn’t that a bit extreme? Might there not be a few logical steps between “Do nothing” and “Leave behind your corporeal being and this entire plane of existence to enter a virtual reality that does not yet exist and may very well be the design of a malevolent artificial intelligence and/or Mark Zuckerberg?” To which I say, No, this is the only logical solution.

The White House says we need to vaccinate, ventilate, and encourage responsible masking and distancing measures. Let’s be clear: in an ideal world, backed by science and rationality, those measures might be enough to end this pandemic. But this isn’t an ideal world. This is America in 2022.

Vaccines have been politicized. Masks have been politicized. A non-insignificant portion of America would rather eat horse paste and drink their own pee than even glance at a KN95. These folks are our fellow Americans, but they are also the worst. We, the vaccinated, the masked, the socially distanced, must rise up and take back what is ours.

Friends, we must enter the Matrix.

How much longer will this pandemic last, if large swaths of our population still refuse to take even the tiniest steps to keep themselves and the rest of us safe? How many new variants will arise? We’re almost out of Greek letters. What’s next, numbers? Imagine the despair.

Avoiding the virus is no longer an option. Omicron and the Supreme Court have seen to that. Because the vaccinated can still spread the disease, Americans should probably lie low for a few more weeks—or perhaps for the rest of their lives, which could be better spent looking for love in a retro ’80s bar in San Junipero.

Putting normal life into metaphorical suspended animation back in the spring of 2020 was the right decision, but now I want to hear more about actual, literal suspended animation. There will be trade-offs, and there will be casualties, but you can’t remove all risk from human existence (virtual or not). Like most of us, I’ve followed the rules. I will continue to do so in the form of my digital half-centaur avatar, Monopkolis365.

Yes, I am willing to admit that there are other paths to a post-pandemic life that do not involve inserting yourself into a cryogenic tub to be used as a battery source for our future AI overlords.

But consider this: any path that accepts the realities of this pandemic will mean accepting that two years is, in fact, not enough. It will mean accepting that you cannot simply decide a pandemic is over when you yourself are no longer personally bothered by it. The pandemic cannot be over until we can protect the most vulnerable of us—the immunocompromised, the disabled, the elderly, the impoverished, the incarcerated, the children too young to be vaccinated, and the parents who care for them.

Ending the pandemic in a nonfictional manner will mean doing hard things, and, friends, I know things have been so, so hard already. It will mean even more sacrifice, more tears, more dashed dreams, and more disappointments. It will mean we must trust each other. We must acknowledge that no man is an island. We must care for our neighbors as if for our kin.

Ending the pandemic in this reality will require us to do the hardest thing there is to do in the world: to give a damn about other people.

Or we upload ourselves to the cloud. The choice is easy.