While public worship is suspended, I will be posting the odd comment.
Some have been calling this pandemic a revelation of divine displeasure. Even our politicians have been humbled by this virus, exhibiting their frailty, whether they like it or not, in the face of this emergency. I would like to consider our attitude towards the pandemic of the moment, and I would like to consider it in light of other frights in the past.
In the Cold War, we were paralysed by fear when nuclear holocaust threatened. Joined to this was a great anxiety because of unidentified flying objects. The little green men and other alien beings suddenly appeared, and were written about extensively by many different scientists and non-scientists. They remain in popular culture in the name Roswell and Area 51 in the desert of New Mexico. Now there are zombies and all sorts of ghouls which haunt.
Further back in the past, there are other existential scares. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there were witch-hunts, throughout Europe and in North America. Earlier in history the crusades showed how one section of the world’s population vilified another. This pattern of fear has been repeated time and again, arising against neighbour or an unknown – or even invisible – person or being. Whatever its object, the unknown appeared. Clearly the unexplained terrifies.
The completely other throws everything back into the chaos of a beginning, when a new world is created. The current situation is an example of this. Our reactions to a completely new, unknown future reveal our brave new worlds. From the person who ignores everything to the person overwhelmed by every single announcement that appears on the news, is the range of possible behaviour. From the hand-washing of the Lady Macbeth to the playtime of children in dirt whatever the source, we can see all the types of activity people have taken up to create a cosmos around them in these parlous times.
How can we moderate our behaviour in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe? We do need to wash our hands of all the filth of the past, metaphorically and literally, as the start of our purer lives, our futures – “Life in all its fullness” as many have been wont to call it.
Life has changed dramatically in the last month for people throughout the globe. Their private and public worlds are being transformed around them, despite their best efforts to be “normal”. After 9/11 we searched for a “new normal” so that we could settle into a routine where no thought was needed to continue. Perhaps that is wrong – perhaps there has never been a “normal – perhaps we need to remain in the world where flux is ever present, where there is no routine, but everything around us is new and vibrant, challenging, even dangerous. Where love is on the edge of experience informing every moment of life in all that fullness for each and every one of us.