In our post-Covid transition period a key word that is emerging is hybrid. Hybrid is most commonly used as a descriptive of the ongoing process of developing hybrid personal or group meetings or hybrid worship in terms of blending the advantages of the Zoom formats with our need for more personal contact. Many groups are now in discussion about possible technology and other structural transitions that would continue to employ the advantages of Zoom’s ability to gather dispersed people and also fulfilling the longing to sit again in our in-person circles of shared community with food, conversation, and fellowship. My guess is that most groups you are part of are having similar conversations.
But I want to extend the challenges to “hybridizing” meetings only to a broader discussion about a whole range of transitionary challenges. The process of transitioning from a year long primary dependence on Zoom for our social life may be the easier part of integrating all we have experienced and learned from the Covid-19 lockdown into the personal and cultural openings before us. I am just beginning to think of the implications - some of them Covid related, others not - as we engage in a constant process of integrating and hybridizing established, “normal" historical practices into the current of fast moving and complex technological demands that include often unfamiliar and even threatening expectations. Holding a center while we try to merge the often competing or misaligned pieces of our lives is difficult. And I often think, cautiously, back to acclaimed Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel, “Things Fall Apart,” that chronicles his culture's cataclysmic encounter with the Europeans. The pressure to make the necessary adjustments overwhelmed their ability to do so.
Our common “hybridizing” stream of consciousness these days goes something like this: "I am so glad not to officially have to wear a mask, but I am not sure when I should still wear a mask, and maybe it also kept me from having the flu and I should wear one anyway, but I really enjoy seeing peoples’ faces and smiles again and smiling back, so I will just have to see how comfortable I am as I learn to “hybridize” my mask wearing; or, “If I stop using Zoom I will miss my intimate visits with my grandkids, but they are getting tired of Zoom and are not as willing to schedule visits, but how can I continue to schedule meetings with them within their schedules and will I become only another obligation in their busy lives;” or “Can I continue the lockdown’s limited need for the use of the car and shopping trips, but it’s so convenient again to just come and go as I wish, but I remember how much time it saved not to go out so often, and the CO2 levels declined, so what is the best “hybridized” level of mobility I should now assume?” You get the idea. And you can offer dozens more of post-Covid “hybridized" adaptations you are now considering. It’s exciting but challenging to be intentional about all this.
I am so intrigued by the idea that the whole world, right down to each of us individually, have been shaken from our complacency and (for those who have it) our assumed securities and safety. We are thus invited to change lens from an unsustainable way of life for all of us, to a life style that emphasizes the centrality and value of personal relationships and daily reverence (we now know the impact of lockdown isolation and loneliness on so many people) and the importance of cooperation, mutual respect, and the willingness of so many people to risk their lives in service to us. And to contrast the point of all the attentiveness and respect we appreciated from so many people during the pandemic, we also could observe how possible it is for society to devolve into fear, violence, and intolerance.
My point this evening is simple: In this historical window following the lockdown and isolation of the pandemic, and the transitionary time ahead, we can now envision and choose positive, life-affirming “hybrid” behaviors, and perhaps revised values, that are more compatible to who we really want to be and how we want to live. May the poignant experience of the pandemic serve as a reminder and a guide to this search, and may we choose wisely.