Community//

Changing Our Orbit in the Time of Coronavirus

The world has spun out of rotation. We name what we believe this to be, but behind it’s scientific name and statistics its meaning is elusive. Some call it ‘The Great Pause’. Indeed it’s a pause, and yet the very phrase conjures a rest of some sort – but not a rest for all. Perhaps […]

photo credit: Greg Rakozy
photo credit: Greg Rakozy

The world has spun out of rotation. We name what we believe this to be, but behind it’s scientific name and statistics its meaning is elusive. Some call it ‘The Great Pause’. Indeed it’s a pause, and yet the very phrase conjures a rest of some sort – but not a rest for all.

Perhaps the most egregious oversight is to pretend that this is the same for all of us. Nothing is ever the same for all of us, and this is where the sacredness lives on every front if we stop pretending.

For the anxious who have hid it so well for so long, this is the matchstick of fear struck against the powder keg of anxiety that sits inside them each and every day. For a single mom, it’s the heinous looks of disapproval cast upon her when she tows her little ones into the grocery store for milk because she has no one to leave them with. For the wealthy investor, it’s the fear he will lose it all. For the hourly worker living paycheck-to-paycheck, it’s the fear he too, will lose it all.

For some, this has been a step off the hamster wheel of busyness and achievement, to start a new hobby, read more books, get into better shape, or face the prospect of spending more time with one’s chosen partner or even themselves and all the darkness and light that may carry with it.

For some, it’s a faster, wilder race on the hamster wheel and that wheel is on fire. These caged, fire runners are the nurses, doctors, first responders, farmers, store clerks stocking shelves and ringing up customers, garbage collectors, custodians, and gas pump attendants. They put the value of human life ahead of cautious safety for their own. They strive to provide for their families even when their lives are on the line.

For some, this has been a tsunami of grief sweeping away the lives of friends, family, and loved ones – carrying with it in its fatal current so many folks who we assumed would leave this world in a quieter state of peace.

For some, this has been a grand inconvenience only wished to be hurried away. It has been a halt in their shopping sprees and cocktail parties, or in their leisure to run errands, or in trips to sit on the corner barstool. Many hem and haw how they would love to shut the door on it and return to the way things were. It has been said about the way things were, that somewhere along the way we began to value things and use people rather than value people and use things. It seems that this wasn’t a single monumental choice made at a moment in time but a choice made by millions of us, thousands of times over, at work, in our marriages, in our courtrooms, in our universities, on sports fields, in entertainment, and even in the leadership rungs of our religious institutions. It has been a repetitive, conscious choice, a short sale of our virtue, at the crossroads of each generation, each culture, each societal rung, and at so many decisive pits stops along our way.

For some, this is a faint song in the distance with a call to return to hear the music. It’s a call to slow down, to lead with deliberation, to proceed with discernment, to return to conversations that matter, to listen with precision to the nonsensical utterances of babies, and to blanket children with patience for their curiosity. It is a call to celebrate dinners around the family dining table, to take time to rest, to take time to listen, to make space to stumble and re-route and rotate off course, to protect what you love, and let those you love know they matter before its too late.

For some, there has been the implosion of financial devastation and the chaos of having to determine how to afford the lives thru methodically constructed. If we all can free ourselves from the weight of this soul-crushing debris just long enough to take a deep breath, we may find that open space to let the smallest bits of life inside.

When our earth has been shaken, all that does not matter is falling away. That argument at work, that grudge against a relative, the new kitchen remodel that was going to be life changing, the 25 year-reunion that was the motivational finish line, the eggshell relationship that can’t stand the weight of stress is airborne and often out of reach. When all of the pretense of order is tossed about, some of us try to hold on stronger to what we thought was ours that we find flying away. Others let it fly. 

We fear that we have somehow now landed ourselves across the threshold of vulnerability. It seems that we have always been just a diagnosis, an infidelity, an accident, or a betrayal away from taking note of the fragility of life that cradles us with its mystery.

When our earth is turned on its side, the veil between this world and the world that precedes us and follows us is lifted. Those that have trudged before us and made a path, through scarcity, depression, wars, famine, human atrocity, violence, and apathy seem a bit closer. Those that have left us and moved on to the next world feel near, in recollection, in curious memories that arise, in spirit, and in that small voice with no sound that tells us they are near and to remember who we are.

What if we quieted our egos? What if we embraced our spirits? What if we found enough quiet in the world around us to hear what our souls have to tell us? It is imperative we do this. Our world depends upon it. We must hush fear and turn towards the uncertainty. We must take our broken parts and our cracked-open selves and face uncertainty the way a flower faces the sun. It will be alright even if it’s not alright. Because we are in this world and not of this world. Because no matter what happens to us in the future we know Who holds our future. And because we know in the splices of integrity in the smallest particles that embody who we are, all that happens to us and around us – whether its great obstacle, obscene atrocity, or undeserved forgiveness, mercy, and love, is always happening for us. This whole messy life, is not one of fairness but one of phenomenon, and is unfolding in our collective favor.

You may hold this time as a great pause or as a collision that has knocked us clear off our rotation, but what we do with it matters much more. Some will seek to piece back together the remnants of the way many of our broken lives were. Some will save lives. Some will tend to souls. Some will drink themselves into a deeper fog. Others may just wait until the spin out is over. Many of us will treat this as a crisis. The origins of the word ‘crisis’ are equated with a true decisive point.

We are standing, sitting, crawling, and stumbling along the fault line of a place where we can change course. What will you orbit? What will you do?

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