Many of us are preoccupied these days with assessing our personal, family and community relationship with Omicron. How far dare we venture away from home and how much longer do we need to be masked? I still sign in as “ambivalent” about my own confidence that it is yet all that safe out there, but the whiffs of spring air, a full day of sunshine, and the return of the chirping of song birds certainly feels encouraging and liberating as we awake to a world without the cloud of Covid hanging over us.
And that begs the question about what we are envisioning and hoping for on the other side of Omicron. The usual anticipatory word is we want normalcy, for our lives to seem more familiar again, like being away on a long trip and just wanting to get back home to settle into the old easy chair. But as we return “home” we are clearly inhabiting a different world from the one we left two years ago. In Thomas Wolfe’s novel, You Can’t Go Home Again, he explores how difficult it is to settle back into the place and time where you once lived because so much will have changed since you left; it’s simply not the same any more. And I think that is exactly the reality we are all facing as we now transition away from the dwindling power of Covid into a whole new world to explore and create.
So if we “can’t go home again,” where can we go? And I think all of us at some level of consciousness are asking that question.
Thomas Wolfe offered a response that I think applies today as well. “Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep going; don’t freeze up.”* Although it is quite tempting right now to give in to our fatigue and impatience and just want to comfortably bide our time without exerting much effort or commitment. We can tell ourselves we will just wait until we hope life settles back down before we dare to explore new possibilities. But then we can do better. What can we imagine and dream for ourselves for the next year, two years, five and ten years? In other words, despite the obvious concern about the future of politics and racial and planetary healing, this may very well be time when we most need to pick ourselves up and work to create the better world we need to envision and implement as we also must address and rectify all that continues to threaten and harm us.
I can think of dozens of opportunities to make a difference in this scrambled time. We can begin by making our families and communities more inclusive, healthy and emotionally safe. This primarily means we can learn to communicate more openly and skillfully with those with whom we disagree. We can make sure special attention is given to the schools and medical facilities that have experienced such disruption these past months. We can do a deeper dive on how to live more sustainably on the planet. The list goes on. The point is we all need to move on and not "freeze up" with our doubts and fears about the future.
For me a commitment to the future also includes an appeal for Divine guidance as I accept that so much of the complexity of our lives now is beyond just adopting a better political or economic system. We will need to depend on some level of surprise and the “grace” of unexpected benevolence. For years now my daily mantra has been to “expect grace and pray for mercy,” and I will be using it even more intentionally in the coming days - and I invite you to do the same.
We can’t - and shouldn’t - aspire to go "home again” to an unsustainable future. We need to commit to creating a "new home” where our children will be able to live and thrive in new creative ways for meaningful work and to live together in a “beloved community” we cannot yet imagine.
*Thomas Wolfe quotations from www.goodreads.com.