This blog features reflections on current affairs through the lens of my Quaker faith and practice and offers not only analysis but a perspective on hope, renewal, and reconciliation - a “lift”, as I call it - during these stressful, chaotic times.
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Among the many possibilities for gratitude on my thanksgiving list this year, I think I will put near the top my gratitude for all the gifts of the pandemic. Of course I will also acknowledge and pray for those who have endured the hardships and suffering as a result of the illness and the major and prolonged disruptions in so many thousands of lives. But strangely, perhaps, most of us can also acknowledge some important benefits coming out of Covid that have brought significant changes to our lives. We are still too closely engaged to even imagine any final calculation of losses and gains, but I often wonder if the pandemic was necessary for us to truly face the challenges of an evolutionary process of change that can only happen when we successfully confront such a radical disruption in our lives, as difficult and painful as it might be.
In addition to the particular gifts of the pandemic such as the communication revolution from Zoom broadcasting, my primary gratitude for the impact of the pandemic is that it exposed and magnified a whole range of vulnerabilities and injustices in our common life. Most of the problems highlighted were already fomenting, but the pandemic brought them front and center to our attention. We cannot know whether this increased awareness will eventually actually help us deal more intentionally with climate issues, nuclear disarmament and wealth disparity, among other global crises, but I do think it has been a major influence.
I think, for example, of how the pandemic has made us all so much aware of the need to realign our economic, social, and environmental priorities based on our exposed common vulnerability and humanity. The fallout from the cultural shakedown of Covid may not have directly or significantly influenced the Build Back Better* bill passed by the House this past week, for example, but I want to believe its passage was made more acceptable because we all have become so much more aware of our common plight, whether it be health and wealth issues, or the threat of climate devastation. These issues existed before the pandemic, of course, but the universal impact of the pandemic created a much clearer sense of our how we belong to each other, of being part of a more integrated broad commons of our humanity. And a sense belonging, in turn, may be a key to our becoming more open to broadly shared responsibility for each other that we might eventually welcome as a form of socialism or communitarianism, or maybe simply kindness and compassion. I think Covid taught us something about being more caring, and I am grateful for that lesson indeed.
The prophetic vision calls for the realignment of an economic and social system that primarily benefits the the exploitation and neglect of the powerful, to an economic system strategically committed to supporting the most vulnerable. I want to believe the pandemic lifted our sense of our common humanity, our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of each one us that resides in each of our souls, even as our shadow side of exclusive self interest resides there as well. But we can choose to be gracious and kind and model graciousness for others. Throughout the pandemic our hearts went out to the courage and selfless dedication of the medical personnel, to all those who served the community in spite of the hardships and risks, and to all those who died so alone and left grieving family and friends. We often became more considerate and helpful neighbors. We became our "better angels” in spite of the divisions swirling around us.
The ongoing impact of the pandemic will continue to humble and teach us if we are wise and attentive to its lessons. And for this we need to be grateful.
* Although the Build Back Better House bill will now undergo considerable scrutiny in the Senate, it represents a welcome proposal for how a government, such as those most notably in the Scandinavian countries, can effectively provide for the welfare of our people and the planet. But first we need to better reckon with how many of these areas are currently being neglected under the present economic system. Among its more significant provisions of the Build Back Better plan passed by the House of Representatives :