The Inarticulability of Crisis

Every year for Halloween I watch an adaptation of Macbeth. It’s a tradition I started in undergrad that started as a way to do something literary and spooky but also get in the writing mood for NaNoWriMo (oh for the time to put into a novel again!). So far I haven’t repeated the same one twice, and it’s been fascinating seeing how many different ways the same story is interpreted. This year’s Macbeth was a little special – an online interactive (and somehow very claustrophobic) adaptation put on by the Independent Shakespeare Company called the last syllable.

It is mentioned early on that Macbeth’s wife has a name – Gruach. Interestingly, we don’t really see Macbeth for a long time – instead time is spent on Lady Macbeth learning of the prophesy, with Macbeth appearing beside her, as if summoned by magic. Really, Macbeth is pushed to the back burner a bit – he is only the latest in a long line of kings to rise to and fall from power by violence, a force that leaves the ruined lives of everyone it sweeps by – particularly the women and children – in its wake.

The structure of the story – told through video, audio clips, maps, images, phone calls, etc in a fashion that feels disjointed and cryptic – conveys a sense that this is a story too big and strange to be captured in text. In pandemic times, the production is very slippery – the Artist portrayed as researching the play could very well be the observer, the audience, you, as we participants consume the very imagery and recordings the Artist is using in her work. The idea of a lost production, the Artist/Audience working in isolation with only recorded messages for company, are a bit too close to home.

This inarticulability of a crisis oddly parallels a book series I’m currently reading, the Ravicka series by Renee Gladman. These books are about a lot of things, all of which appear at the corner of the eye as if they would turn to smoke if spoken about directly. Ravicka is a city, but it is un-becoming in a way that nobody, inside or outside the city can truly articulate. This crisis, one of translation or architecture or political upheaval, unfolds slowly, with each book adding layer upon layer and new perspectives o the change.

Ravicka and the last syllable have little in common in their conclusions. Where the problems of Ravicka remain untranslatable even to the city’s most loyal inhabitants, who persist in spite of change, the last syllable features a triumphant ending of sorts (as much as you can for a tragedy) – the actor who plays the Artist also plays a witch and Macduff in the final scene – delivering the final blow to Macbeth before taking her place among the weird sisters. Macbeth has been tamed by the travails of a scholar, who upon being asked whose side she would be on “when judgment is passed for what has been done” chose to confront the creeping, violent force that has destroyed so many lives and break the tragic cycle.

In either case, it’s good, interesting stuff. The perfect amount of unsettling for autumn.

And here we are, wherever we are…

I had thought to make this blog a real project, a real space to blend my interests and practice science communication and storytelling. But like many things, it fell to the wayside. I had imagined re-imagining myself, becoming the confident, energetic and capable professional creature I had envisioned myself becoming. But then everything (again) spiraled out of control and I find myself feeling more often than not deeply, existentially, exhausted. But who doesn’t these days, really?

I was laughing (because what else can we do) with someone other day about how strange everything pre-2020 seems now. It’s been nine months since the first shutdown where I lived, and it’s so strange to look back to what we were doing just before everything collapsed on itself. I remember the creeping dread while traveling week after week for grad school interviews, hearing nervous chatter in the airports, seeing headlines reporting nursing home deaths. My last flight home was nearly empty; my seat neighbor and I felt a great deal of mutual relief when we realized we could spread out and have whole rows to ourselves. Funny how realizing you’re not trapped together makes people feel more connected sometimes. I remember finally getting back to Wednesday night dumpling routine at the pop-up kitchen downtown, savoring the food (and regretting not getting the gochujang cauliflower even though that meant saving money for another visit the next week that never happened) while people, sitting outside, murmured nervously about potential workplace closures. I remember staying up until 2am shooting protein crystals with lab friends and feeling like I was finally back at home.

And yet, here we are.

I don’t have anything profound to say, only that the end of this year feels like a loss, and also an escape. I really struggled in the last (my first) semester because it felt like I gave up so much without clearly seeing what would arrive in return. Leaving the only place that really felt like home (leaving my ocean, my trees, my community, my lab projects, my friends), leaving the security of a real job, the possibility of finishing a project for myself that I had worked on from the very beginning. Finding myself three hours separated from family and friends, bittersweet reunions with old friends that I may never see again. Culture shock (again). California wildfires, knowing that places I used to think and walk in have burned. Sorrow for acquaintances who lost homes. Not being able to say goodbye, not being able to meet new people where I am now. Losing the chance to rotate in and potentially join several labs I’d been excited about. Anxiety attacks. Being stuck in a city unfriendly to pedestrians without a car, losing the accessibility of nature I’ve clung to for years.

These are small losses in the grand scheme of things, but losses all the same. December always makes me introspective, but perhaps that’s how it should be. Some times are for joy and movement, others for acknowledging the terror and loss. I keep waking in the middle of night with lines of poetry running pre-formed in my head. Sometimes it’s time for reflection, for trying hopelessly to pin down words for the ineffable.

So here’s to 2021? Here at the bitter end of a year that went awry when all there is left is to stubbornly hope, to heal, to hang on. Absorbing what quiet I can over the break between semesters, my first Christmas snow. Taking comfort in the changing weather, the beautiful patterns of bare branches against the sky. Who knows where we are going, but for now, here we are, wherever we are.

things I’ve been enjoying:

  • Tess of the Road – feels borderline between YA/adult fantasy, a story about a young woman walking her way out of trauma, shame, with a dash of dragons for good measure. Tess is bitter and not always likable, but feels real and deeply relatable. This was a reread; I needed something that felt healing and resonant. Not always an easy read, but a good one.
  • Poetry Unbound podcast – another deeply soothing endeavor, each episode is nothing more than a poem, read twice, and some commentary both personal and analytical about what it means. Comfortable, often illuminating, always like what poetry lessons in school ought to have been.
  • “Lessons from Microbes: What Can We Learn about Equity from Unculturable Bacteria?”
  • Deep sea soundscapes (I’ve thought some about how we explore new spaces from our own perspectives, even when not appropriate for our surroundings. How can we think we understand an environment in its totality when we only know it through our own lens? To know a world without light, why not turn to sound?)

Saturday Morning Science

I mean to actually have a real post this week, but have been scrambling to figure out grad school things + worrying about CA fires that are way too close to home. Grateful for all the people who are working together to fight the fires and care for everyone who is being evacuated.

Anyway, on to some of the things I’ve been reading when not setting up an apartment, navigating university bureaucracy or mourning my trees:

  • Manganese munching microbes!
  • Intellectual humility is a thing worth working on
  • So, anglerfish do this weird thing where males are tiny and actually fuse themselves permanently to females, becoming little more than an extra organ. It gets weirder. They manage this fusion, which when you think about the challenges of finding the perfect match for tissue/organ/blood donors seems highly unlikely, by having an extremely minimal immune system. If you can’t tell self/non-self apart, you can’t reject your mate. Sounds great, I guess? Article about it here or Science paper here
  • Ancient microbes! Nature Communications article here.
  • Really liked the phrasing of an “education debt” rather than “achievement gap,” it shifts the blame from students — children — failing to live up to external expectations to the adults who fail to provide the support they need to grow
  • “The ecological and evolutionary consequences of systemic racism in urban environments” – should come as no surprise to anyone, but social justice and environmentalism aren’t really distinct issues – where resources for people are, greater biodiversity and greenspaces also may be; where wealth and status symbols (like perfectly manicured lawns) are common, wildlife suffers, where people have access to natural spaces, their health improves, etc.
  • Been reading a lot about rapid COVID testing! Article here, good video here. Great interview here.
  • I agree with some of this (some good numbers here!), but I’ll also note that assuming tenure-track faculty = better teaching isn’t great, since most have a) not had real training to teach and b) are disincentivized to improve teaching over spending that time on research in a publish-or-perish atmosphere. Anecdotal, but my best classes were taught by adjuncts and younger professors not yet tenured.
  • Risks of deep sea mining

Saturday Morning Science (Not)

It’s not Saturday, it’s not morning, and it’s not even entirely science. But being between my job in the lab and starting grad school I currently don’t have access to all the articles I’ve been finding to read. So taking this as a good opportunity to read up on how we got to this present moment, and what it’s going to take to fix it. So, a mixture of things read in the last week or so:

Charting COVID Cases

One thing that has been frustrating me with the pandemic is that the way that data are being presented to the public is often confusing and incomplete. This seems like exaclty the time to develop better science communication and graphics designs skills but results seem to vary by county/state/etc…

Our testing capacity has been…questionable at best for a lot of the pandemic. This hasn’t helped. It’s hard to compare statistics from today to three months ago knowing that our ability to capture the whole picture of what’s happening through increased testing, awareness, conflation of different types of tests, etc has varied wildly through time.

One thing I do think would help (especially for those of us who are not statistical wizards or inclined to dig through the data ourselves) is to stop using cumulative case count charts as a main source of information for the general public and replace them with % positive test charts. Reasons for this:

  1. Cumulative cases are always going to go up. The most we can hope for is a flat line, but outside of showing how well we’re “flattening the curve” this isn’t an incredibly useful way to see at a glance if conditions are getting worse in your area or not, especially when formatting makes it difficult to really interpret the slope of the line.
  2. Cumulative cases does not take into account testing capacity. If you test more people in an area with active infections, you’re going to find more positive cases. This makes the cumulative case line spike up, even though the actual infection rate might have stayed the same.
  3. Graphing the % positive tests is a (somewhat crude) way to take testing capacity into account by merely showing how likely it is that a COVID test on a given day comes back positive. This isn’t quite as useful when the only people getting tested are people who are almost certainly sick (as happened early on when people were being screened for symptoms before testing), but as testing capacity increases, allowing a wider range of people to get tested (and ideally, as we do broader surveys of a community to seek out infections before they result in bigger local outbreaks), this becomes more representative of the community at large.

I like the way testing results are being reported in the UW Virology Twitter account (here) – you see the number of tests, number of positives, a percentage positive is reported, and you can get cumulative total positives all in one page.

Ultimately, though, however the data are presented, there will be issues. The important thing is to realize what is actually being conveyed and what information is missing from the picture. Personally I think that any time a graph of coronavirus cases is being presented in the news it should be accompanied by a graph of testing totals at minimum, if only to make local ability to handle new cases more transparent. We should be able to see if our area is ramping up testing or is still overwhelmed, because a greater ability to detect new cases means we have more reliable information to help navigate our personal choices to reduce risk. If my area is unable to test, how do I know that there isn’t a growing outbreak in my area making it unsafe to work, run errands, or walk around the park?

We can still do all the personal preventative measures, like wearing masks in public, avoiding large gatherings, and distancing as much as possible in indoor spaces, but as more places are starting to open up, it seems vital to have complete and easy to understand information available to everyone.

Saturday Morning Science

I really don’t have a lot to say today, just feeling a lot of rage and uncertainty. Posting these today because sometimes you have to hold on to whatever you can find, and the common theme of reading this week is life finds a way…under even the most hostile of circumstances.

The Virus and the Uncertainty Monster

So, it’s been a while. A long while.

I’m not sure why this blogging thing turned into such a difficult habit to adopt. Maybe I’m just bad at developing habits. Maybe it’s just hard to overcome the desire for perfectionism and producing something of value. I need to accept that the world is messy and not every single thing needs to be worthy of award and acclaim to have some value in discussion. Better to try to contribute to a conversation, than to not.

So, in the midst of a pandemic, let’s start again. I think my goals here are twofold. First, to share some of the extraordinary things we’re learning about the world, because it’s incredible, and inspiring, and I think science doesn’t always do a good job of reaching out beyond the immediate science community, and as an individual with interest and education in earth science and biology, I think my particular slice of interests doesn’t always get represented, especially in combination. Secondly, as a scientist-in-training, and a storyteller-in-training (and probably perpetually in training for both), I’m interested not only in the facts, but in how we engage with them: what narratives we build about the world, why we struggle with big issues, what biases we bring into our studies. By ignoring the very human storytelling, meaning-making impulse, be its products good or bad, I worry that we lose the ability to identify the ways we can make science/education/the world more accessible and understand how we got to where we are today.

And yes, it is messy and there are no perfect answers and I know nothing, really, but without digging in and starting conversations, I’m not sure how we can hope to grow.

And so, this pandemic! I’ve had this project in the back of my head for a long while about Frankenstein and climate change, exploring how/why we’ve employed analogy to Frankenstein to science, and the monster narratives around research and big scary issues like climate change that are full of uncertainty. But a lot of that material is applicable here, too, I think. I wanted, as a person who has spent some time in the land of viruses and vaccines, to do a sort of informational post about the situation, but honestly, there are enough voices and fact sheets on this already. Maybe I’ll do something more personal at some point, but not today.

Pandemics are confusing. We’re being accosted by something too small to see that we don’t even know is present until it’s far too late, that has effects that we don’t even quite understand. The rapid pace and openness of research right now is boosting our ability to respond, but also making it hard to keep up with information and revealing how little we know and how quickly what we do know can be overturned by a new experiment, and in general, our society isn’t fluent enough in that process to be comfortable with that uncertainty. More could be said here, but I feel like it has already been nicely summed up in other places (like here, for instance).

I keep returning to this idea of an “uncertainty monster,” which I was previously interested in through the context of climate change, but also puts useful language on the current situation. I think it’s a no-brainer that one of the worst parts of the pandemic, at least for those of us who are fortunately healthy and housed, is the uncertainty, not knowing what’s going on and what will happen in the future. But what’s really interesting is looking at how we talk about the pandemic, and which patterns of response we fall into. And I hope that by identifying these patterns we are better equipped to manage the flood of information and misinformation through awareness of the strategies used to communicate it.

To summarize (badly) the uncertainty monster (citations below if the link doesn’t work):

  • We like to be able to categorize and explain our world.
  • Things that don’t fit neatly into our cultural boxes (“monsters”) produce fascination and/or fear
  • Big issues (like climate change, new technologies with major ethical considerations, pandemics, etc) produce an “uncertainty monster” – we’re stuck in a grey space where we know enough to know there’s a problem but not enough to fix it, and have to navigate informational shortcomings, weigh our values, balance policy and research priorities, etc.
  • There are a few general strategies for transforming the unknown into something we can live with:
    • Monster exorcists try to get rid of the monster. They see the way we categorize our world, as inflexible, and thus anything that interferes with the status quo must be removed by any means. On the one hand, an exorcist might say that if we just do enough research and throw enough money at the problem, we’ll be able to fill all the gaps in our knowledge, and make the virus go away for good. On the more unfortunate side, monster exorcists might say things like “it’s time to go back to normal,” pointing to individual studies as adequate information to make a plan, ignoring the much greater complexities in play. Other monster exorcists who take issue with vaccines (categorical monsters in their own right, but that’s a side topic and please get your vaccines, dear readers) might co-opt the pandemic to further their anti-vaccination stance, using one monster to battle another. How do we make this nightmare, and everything it might imply about our weaknesses, go away?
    • Monster adaptors seek to adapt the monsters to better fit into our existing understanding of the world. On the good end of the spectrum, these include researchers and science communicators who try to put the pandemic into perspective. Another adaptation strategy is to try to transfer as much of our usual way of life to this new, distant and online format, proceeding to the greatest extent possible as normal to keep chaos from infiltrating every aspect of life. On the bad side, reframing it as “just the flu” and conspiracy theorists who concoct stories, say, about viral origins. Can we reframe the narrative to make lemonade from these viral lemons?
    • Monster embracers are eager and excited about the monster. And okay, I doubt anybody is happy about a pandemic, which is where this metaphor, originally applied to new technologies, breaks down a bit. But there’s plenty of people who are using their time at home to be more productive than they usually would be, or are finding value in the new mode of life that they hope to keep once “normal” returns. And there are a few who veer off course and rationalize the virus as due punishment for human action (i.e. the “nature is better off without us, nature defends itself” approach), accepting it as if not fantastic, justified. Monster embracing does not question why the monster is, but accepts it as it is.
    • Monster assimilators adapt the monster and our conceptions of the world. This balanced approach is best encapsulated by conversations that acknowledge both the current risk posed by the pandemic and the need for future resiliency. Monster assimilators may seek to understand the virus to minimize its impacts (through social distancing strategies, vaccines, medications, etc), but also believe there is no real return to the status quo. They may imagine ways to make society more responsive to crisis, and hope to use the current break from ordinary life as an opportunity to find solutions to the larger problems that play into the pandemic.

I think it’s also interesting that these categories can all be effective or harmful depending on the context and application. So, what monster strategies do you tend to fall back on? What narratives are you consuming, and what’s their underlying focus? How do these strategies differ in the face of different problems (linking to the uncertainty monster & climate change below).

  • Smits, M. “Taming Monsters: The Cultural Domestication of New Technology.” Technology in Society 28, no. 4 (November 1, 2006): 489–504.
  • Curry, J. A., and P. J. Webster. “Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster.” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 92, no. 12 (August 8, 2011): 1667–82.
  • J, van der Sluijs. “Uncertainty as a Monster in the Science-Policy Interface: Four Coping Strategies.” Water science and technology : a journal of the International Association on Water Pollution Research, 2005.

Saturday Morning Science

Another weekend, another week over. Too sunny for me to want to spend time outside, so lurking indoors reading and thinking and being tempted to bake some sort of cake.

Also a bonus – working through a book about rabies (you know, for a little light reading) and finding it fascinating. It’s called Rabid, by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy, and it’s all about how rabies has shown up in culture throughout history. Interesting for the science and culture (and a chapter about vampires and werewolves for good measure).

Saturday Morning Science

How are we already into August? It feels like summer goes faster every year. Without further ado, a few things read this morning of interest:

Stranger Things: Working with the Bones of Horror

Note: for anyone reading this from Tumblr, some of this is possibly going to be familiar – I’m more or less compiling previous commentary on Stranger Things over here and applying to the new season. And will split into probably three parts for my own sanity as much as yours.

So one of the things I’m interested in are the recipes that make a story work. Why do some fairytale adaptations feel more “real” than others? What makes an ending satisfying, and when is a seemingly-unsatisfying ending right for your story? Why do we enjoy scary stories so much, and what makes a good one?

Stranger Things, of course, draws on a wealth of pop culture and horror tropes (sometimes seeming more of a mashup than an original), which makes it really easy to take apart and explore through different lenses. Here I want to look at how the show follows the “rules” of horror to build cohesiveness and depth. A good horror story is more than a string of scary images, after all; it, like any other good story, begins a conversation about ourselves.

So. My three “rules” of horror (that are entirely up for debate, but we have to start somewhere:

1. Horror sanctions behavior
2. Horror reflects and distorts the anxieties of the real
3. Horror breaks and reforms the status quo

1. Horror Sanctions Behavior

To have a plot, you generally must have also have a problem. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Unrest in distant lands, creatures lurking in the night, a fight with friends. A bad decision is made, someone or something behaves in a way that challenges normal conduct. Something happens that should not happen, breaking the rules of that particular context.

In horror, which often builds into a theme of self-growth (seriously, have you noticed that if you’re not dead by the end, you’re often a Better Person?), it’s often the people who go through the horrifying events that transgress, but other times the error that ignites the story occurred in the past and created a threat that other people must address. In either case, the plot precipitates from this broken rule, allowing more and more frightening and inexplicable things to intrude into normal life, making visible the consequences of the perpetrators’ actions. My favorite example is the haunted house trope where a fighting couple finds their home becoming strange in response to their estrangement. Scary stories reinforce the norms that are already ingrained in the audience by conjuring up grotesquely exaggerated consequences – they remind us to be afraid of the dark. 

Which brings us to Stranger Things. In the first and second seasons (which are much more tightly thematically linked than the third season), we see both past and present bad behavior driving the plot. Sometimes there are simple causes-and-effects: when Nancy sneaks out to a party with Barb, despite this being the exact sort of thing their parents would disapprove of, Barb ends up disappearing. Dustin lies to his friends about his “discovery,” unintentionally helping another little monster to grow up (though admittedly this does pay off when said monster’s sweet tooth-derived loyalty saves the day later on). In other cases, characters must work to correct larger world problems that appeared long before the story began: the experiments that led to the opening of a gate to another world and release of the monsters happened in the past, but the fallout must still be addressed.

The third season is a little different thematically than the first two, but still puts heavy consequences on bad behavior. Billy exhibits a never-ending string of bad behavior, but it’s not until he’s out at night to meet Mrs. Wheeler, who he’s almost charmed into an affair that he is sidetracked and taken in by the Mind Flayer, becoming a literal monster in reflection of his usual predatory behavior. And it’s not usually the case that corrupt mayors allow Russian scientists to construct gates to alternate dimensions beneath your small town, but you have to admit the exaggerated consequences prove a point about authority figures that don’t look after the people they are supposed to protect.

Over all we see again and again that actions have consequences, and horror thrives where rules break down, allowing the genre to explore what scares us because…

2. Horror Reflects and Distorts the Anxieties of the Real

Everybody makes mistakes, so why do these transgressions scare us so much in horror? I believe it’s because horror amplifies each situation so that a small event becomes representative of a much larger societal concern. Horror latches onto the unspoken and unacknowledged anxieties about ourselves, our families, the world at large, etc, and asks what might happen if those concerns were made real. The best horror, I think, works like a mirror, where the anxiety and boundary-crossing is reflected in a monstrous consequence that matches what we most fear.

There are so, so many examples to point out in Stranger Things, but a common thread through all three seasons is uncertainty about science and scientific authority. In stark contrast to the close-knit small town, the laboratory is isolated behind gates and guards. Nobody knows exactly what they’re doing in there, but it can’t be good if they’re not part of the community. And the science itself is extremely boundary-crossing – literally in the creation of the gate to the Upside-Down, and figuratively in the experiments on people and apparent disregard for the lives of their subjects. Ties to the government only reinforce the untrustworthiness, especially as throughout the series we see the authorities fail again and again to reassure and protect the citizens of Hawkins. It would have been realistic to tell a story about a government agency failing to protect people from pollution (I mean, look at the story Nancy and Jonathan end up using to unveil the “truth” about the lab – toxic chemical spills are frightening enough and far more believable), but having actual inter-dimensional monsters rampaging around the town blows these quite reasonable anxieties out of proportion to asks what might happen if our most unimaginable fears became reality. As the world expands in the third season, this same thread extends to Cold War anxieties and fear not only of what our own scientists are doing, but what others, out there, who might have even less of our interest in mind, might be doing.

On a smaller scale, the characters of Stranger Things are constantly wrestling with the constraints of a fairly conservative small town where gender and societal roles are clearly demarcated and deviance not without consequence. Many of the terrible events end up feeding off of the background fear of change and breakdown of the expected codes of conduct. When Nancy tries harder than she probably should to become one of the cool kids (and physically loses a friend in a bit of horrific symmetry), she becomes more archetypal – the Rebellious Teenager, the Girl Who Just Wants to Fit In. We’ve all seen/experienced stories like this, so here individual actions become shorthand for more common experiences and concerns. Again we see social concerns – the fear of change again, intergenerational disagreements, and tension over the replacement of small local life with the flashy-but-unfamiliar generic commercialization by the new mall – in season three, where the mall that is the site of so much contention is where enemies both human and superhuman intrude, and new fads and fashions sweep the town with the same force as the Mind Flayer’s spread.

Perhaps characters and situations become more two-dimensional as a result of this extension of individual situations to broader impact, but that’s the cost of storytelling. Ultimately whatever story is being told, once the fear has been confronted…

3. Horror Breaks and Reforms the Status Quo

All together, horror stories effect catharsis. The horrific appears in the cracks of everyday life and the seams must be closed before the story can end. Anxieties must be dealt with and put back to sleep. 

No matter what Will goes through, he always ends up back at home with his family. Eleven always confronts her monster and closes the gate (more on this next time). There’s still school and work to do and family obligations to meet. Hawkins is still a (mostly) quiet little town.

All stories need a resolution, but getting to this point in horror requires confrontation of the monstrous. After all the monstrous always targets our weak spots. Only by directly facing fears can the world be rebuilt. Again, will write more about this next time when exploring how trauma is addressed in the story, but Eleven must again and again face the creatures that she released as a consequence of what has been done to her, and only can succeed by learning to use her anger and fear. Joyce in particular is a force of nature, turning her terror over losing her youngest child into the energy and creativity needed to solve any problem in her path.

But despite the sameness at the end, there is always change. Eleven becomes increasingly powerful through the series as she grows older and more aware of what has been done to her. Nancy and Steve show quite a bit of character development – as Nancy grows into herself, she becomes a truth-teller for the world at large (going so far as unveiling government conspiracy to get some kind of resolution after her friend’s death and pursuing a story she knows to be significant despite her boss’s disapproval), and Steve becomes the considerate and brave friend that everyone needs when fighting supernatural monsters and accidentally spying on a secret laboratory hidden beneath the local mall.

Horror destroys the ability to hide our fears and failures. It forces us to confront these interior darknesses, made physical, until wrong is made right and our worlds are transformed.*

*but not forever. remember, the monster always returns