Welcome to “Limboland,” a strange and foreign land of limbo experienced and defined in Webster as "an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition” - clearly an accurate description in the world of the corona virus.
Surrounded by a time haze that makes it impossible to see but a few days, and often only hours ahead, our daily lives and the societal world we inhabit seem a bit ghostlike and vaguely unreal. We amble about without our customary rudiments of control or the ability to plan. We live not so much in an endless tunnel but more like an unmoored boat floating suddenly in a pea soup fog whose mysterious particles surround us with potentially lethal toxicity. At least that’s the scary part!
Like many of you, I choose to remain as safe as possible at home. I struggle to maintain the orientation of personal routine and settle for social contact primarily on the computer screen. Unlike being quarantined for a personal illness, my immediate and extended community as a whole is also isolated and unsettled in a what I am learning is a widespread spectrum of quarantine.
So what can we make of the situation that satisfies some of our curiosity and maybe a redemptive explanation? For the most part, at least, the suddenness and scope of the weirdness of the coronavirus era has caught us off guard, and whatever our speculations about what it all means are just that, speculative. We don’t know the actual scope of duration, danger, or depth of the impact on our personal lives, even extending to planetary implications. It’s way too much like just one more of those “you can’t make this stuff up” circumstances that have become the norm for the past three years, only this time it’s so pervasive and more personally threatening.
But I want to try a humble attempt to offer some very thinly informed perspective on how I am trying to understand the coronavirus. You may also be making a similar attempt.
On the one hand, from a purely rational, scientific view, the corona virus is just one of number of existing viruses on the earth. Most are contained or limited to specific cultures or areas. When a powerful and novel one springs forth, as has happened, it becomes unchallenged and finds a ready environment to thrive and threaten. Now, if you can separate the cognitive from feelings, you may be able to rest in this explanation. But then there’s the emotional fear of the threat of death by mass epidemic which we all share to some extent, and the scientific explanation easily seems hollow.
On the other end of the speculative spectrum, the corona virus can represent a sort of cosmic, planetary reckoning. Humanity is under threat in this case, not by the catastrophe of war, nor by monster natural calamities like tsunamis and earthquakes, nor by devastating storms caused by global warming, but our entire human, global, societal structures of commerce, transportation, medical, entertainment, and military are humbled to a common impasse under near total control by tiny, improbable microbes too small to readily confront. It is at least tempting to believe that the planetary Mother Earth goddess, Gaia, or whatever omnipotent and righteous god one believes in, is sending a prophetic, cosmic warning that with all the incredible power and control humankind thinks it possesses, the reality is that there is truly only a “force more powerful” that will have the final say on planetary sustainability.
Whatever our efforts at explanation, the fact is that we are all in this together somehow, from our smallest communities to the wider global world. Assuming the situation will persist for some length of time, the more we will likely experience greater global interdependence and the need for extensive medical, societal, commercial and possibly military cooperation. As we go on, we are likely to further appreciate the regulatory role of government and the necessary leadership of coordination it must play because it becomes a matter of life and death. We can only hope that dysfunctional political structures on the globe will not become a barrier to addressing the coronavirus crisis, but will commit to ever greater levels of cooperation.
Most of all, perhaps, sooner or later "Limboland" will lead us to share an ever expanding sense of a profound humbling recognition of the common ground of mutuality we all share within the context natural law. For a country too often immersed in a mythology of individualism and exceptionalism, humility will be a necessary posture. And if it is true, as a I have learned, that humility is the way to deepening love, maybe the “Limboland" of coronavirus will offer us a greater opportunity to learn of a deeper love of life, of each other, and of the mysterious grace and love of God.