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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What an intriguing and somewhat humorous irony that our era of the “Zoom” age is also the era of a “long and indefinite wait.” The dictionary says the word zoom is “used to express sudden, fast movement.” Granted it is amazing how we can reach out instantaneously on our Zoom apps to friends across the world. I am profoundly grateful we have such a timely and effective technical and social medium for us to maintain at least facial relationships with our family, friends and business associates.
But the rest of our lives - and those of most of the rest of the world - are hardly at a “zoom” pace during as we “shelter in place,” and causing major economic and societal disruption. We reside in a state of persistent uncertainty amidst a slow and often frustrating wait-and-see world. For those of us immediately threatened by a loss of jobs (and thus health insurance), the lack of financial reserves, unattended medical needs, or deaths of family or friends - or other heartbreaking situations - these are truly desperate and depressing times. It is emotionally painful, even for those of us relatively safely removed, to try to take in the extensive hardship caused by the virus and the likelihood it will get worse before we see significant relief.
For those of us less burdened by the daily anxieties and fears of the virus on our lives, the inertia is tolerable, and we have the luxury to imagine that the extended and radical shuffling of the world's norms could include the impetus for extraordinary changes in our planetary economy of resources, services and moral reckoning. From this advantage we can more easily accept that the longevity of the pandemic will more forcefully demand changes that will be beneficial. The various adaptations being made in almost all sectors of our lives are teaching us new levels of responsibility and resourcefulness. Almost daily when we use Zoom, for example, we can imagine new applications for connecting more intimately with family and friends and avoiding commutes to work and meetings. We are too emerged in the pandemic at this point, of course, to offer but a small amount of optimism, but the best of our resilient selves does encourage us to hold out for at least some positive outcomes.
I am reminded this evening of personal and historic periods of uncertainly and waiting. On the home front I think of families with loved ones in harm's way at war waiting for their safe return; long periods of waiting for medical diagnostic reports; extended times between finding employment; and suffering an extended illness or dealing with an impending death of a loved one. Interestingly our current generations have seen relatively few times of terrible extended deprivation compared to those who suffered the last century's great depression and two world wars, for example.
Perhaps we can find encouragement from the revolutionary changes evoked by previous extended periods of uncertainly and disruption. The Jewish people remember 40 years (that’s three generations or more!) in the desert wilderness that established a foundational period of Jewish history; my own Quaker tradition endured 40 years of severe oppression and persecution (1650-1690) that tested and refined the moral basis of Quaker faith and practice that still guides us today; and the remarkable persistence during the decades of struggle before women finally won the right to vote (and the not yet concluded decades of failure to pass an Equal Rights Amendment for women!) I am not in any way anticipating or hoping for such an extended period of strife, but I do want to be aware that disruptive, extended historical periods do provide opportunities for significant social change, and I would hope some of that legacy will apply to our current pandemic crisis.
So as we appreciate the “Zoom era” of revolutionized, instant communication, we must also accept the long wait for our release from the deadly Corona-19 virus. And we look forward, for those of us who are able, to nurturing the impetus toward new pathways leading to a more equalitarian, co-operative, spirit-centered world raised from the disruption and hardship of the pandemic.