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Commentaries and observations about the conflicting moral beliefs and psychological issues facing our culture.
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"AWAY WITH WORDS"
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18 March 2020
…. Reflections On That Nasty Bug ….
This coronavirus has us by the throat. Media inundate us with opinions from experts who instruct us how to stay healthy. We are told to stay home, avoid crowds, sneeze into our elbow (why not Kleenex?), use alcohol-based stuff, don’t touch common surfaces, wash our hands for at least twenty seconds, avoid sick folks and be extra-cautious -- especially us elders, a high-risk category.
After several weeks of escalating inundation, I often wonder what is factual and what is hype, what advice is medically sound and what is media overkill. But the World Health Organization has declared a pandemic, and the virus seems to spread with tenacious ubiquity, taking lives around the world. Moreover, the number of reported cases increases daily, while progress in diagnosis and prevention seems slow, ever so slow. But we do indeed see progress – and this is encouraging.
This virus is tiny, but it creates an extensive ripple effect in our world, in our nation and in our economy. People are fearfully alert. The Federal Reserve lowers interest rates as the market drops precipitously. Schools and theaters and public places close. Rubber gloves, face masks and sterile wipes are everywhere.
At such times, science seems brought to a crawl. Fears of the unknown surface dramatically. Our best laid plans quake and rattle in the face of an alien foe. The familiar is threatened; our routines no longer sustain us. Our vulnerabilities are exposed, both as individuals and as a nation.
The Upside Of Challenge
Such times at this create universal distress throughout our society. Uncertainty tests us all. But realistic anxiety can – and should – usher us into the deeper corners of the human heart, into recesses within ourselves which many of us muzzle and rarely explore, lest we uncover vulnerabilities within ourselves which we deem too severe -- and too revealing -- to manage.
The realistic threat of illness, reports of death and the stark aura of hovering danger moves many of us to reflect on these challenges with religious wonderment. But, contrarily, there are persons who remain unmoved, entrenched inside themselves; persons who mock prayerful soul-searching and ignore the responsibilities we have to one another, to our children and our loved ones, to strangers next door … and a world away.
Skeptics dismiss prayer entirely and express nihilistic resignation and disdain for faith. Yet dismissive denial does not lessen the reality of a world held hostage by a foe so small, yet so powerful, as to threaten us all.
So, some of us are moved – and rightly so -- to ask fundamental questions about the gift of life and the manner in which we live; about who we are, and what sort of person we have become, what we value, what we believe our lives are all about, who we love and who loves us … about the opportunities which still remain to us, about our future and what we choose to do with its hopeful possibilities.
A Personal Moment
These questions remind me again of how precious life truly is, mine and yours.
These questions remind me again how marvelous it is to be consciously aware of the world around me -- and within me.
These questions remind me of how extraordinary are the ordinary experiences of every minute’s sights and sounds and tastes; how engaging are the people around me, how grandly beautiful the color of sunlight on the grass – all of this comes into clearer focus for me, especially when I realize that we are threatened – or more honestly, that I am threatened -- and that all I take for granted may soon be changed, even taken from me.
My thoughts push me ever-further into that tender area of my life’s mysterious path ... and I am once again filled with wonder at the intricacies of the simplest events, filled with equal wonder at the ordered simplicity of the most intricate events.
I look up at the sky and I see the very edge of infinity - in living color. The sun is one of a billion stars in our galaxy; this reminds me that there are a billion galaxies beyond my gaze … and I shake my head and smile at the mystery and wonder of it all.
I look at my own hands and realize the miraculous texture and flexibility of skin and bone and sinew of which my hand is made. I recognize anew that my fingernails somehow grow all by themselves. I cannot order them to cease their growth, for their regulation is beyond my control, as are so many miraculous functions and elegant processes which sustain my health and support my very existence. And my body brings back to me the fact that I am, as are we all, a mystery of astonishing dimension.
The Wonderment Of Soul
Once again, I am moved to wonder about who I really am, and what is my place in this world? And I ask myself some questions which echo with the heart’s deepest wonder:
“Who am I, really?” I ask myself. “What is my identity?” It’s a trite, yet complex, question, I know. But to understand myself, I realize I must finally look to where I invest my heart’s dearest values … for, after my length of years and my decades of work and wonder and hope and striving, I have become only what I most love.
I recall the gifts of goodness and gentility I have received, sometimes from loved ones, sometimes from strangers, always in the sight of my Creator. I happily recall the face and voice and touch of my Beloved. I recall our living close by the sea, watching the fog roll in from the ocean as it sidled slyly through the forests with silent assurance. I recall our visits to the herd of elk in fields nearby, stately and grand in their silent graze and sturdy mien.
And in the same questing manner, I ask myself what I fear most in my life? Is it illness or becoming dependent or missing the few loved ones who have faithfully stayed the course with me in my life? I ask myself if I will be well-remembered when I am gone? And who, I ponder hopefully, will remember me with gracious, forgiving memory?
Then I ask myself: What -- or who -- gives me greatest joy? In what ways can I spend the rest of my days in shared gratitude and delight, with candor and a humble heart, as I am brought to the gentle realization that I am in the Hands of God, and I am safe and beloved beyond any conceivable measure.
Then, I ask myself, “If I love -- truly love -- someone, have I done all I can do to be worthy of love in return? If not, why not? With the time I have left in my life, when will I start to be the loving person I was born to be? What can I do more -- not from fear of illness nor anxiety about the unknown – but simply because loving is what I have been put here on this good earth to do … all along?
Finally, because I do believe in God, I thank God for all that He has given and does give, for all that we behold, for all that is yet to come. And, with gratitude for my life -- and for life itself -- for love and goodness abounding, I pray to God to love and bless you and me … and to be kind to us, each and all.
May it be so. May it ever be so.