As we move further into this true-to-life Twilight Zone, I can’t help feeling sad, scared, and anxious, but I have to admit that I also feel a bit excited—the way one may feel excited about a coming hurricane or some other powerful, larger-than-life event. I also have to admit that as I’ve adjusted to the situation, there has been a kind of numbing effect, like shock. I actually don’t socialize that much, so my routine isn’t that much different, but I also enjoy being among the clamorous hordes at a Mariners game or Folklife or our own Strawberry Festival. Not getting that may have something to do with that feeling.
I count myself extremely fortunate for being retired, owning my home, having a congenial and industrious mate that I love, having a nice garden, and many friends and family that I at least connect with virtually. It’s up to me and those of you that are equally fortunate to no longer accept the system we live in that allows anybody to have anything less.
This is an appropriate place to give a shout out to the Vashon Covid Relief Fund, Vashon Be Prepared, the Food Bank, grocery store clerks, healthcare workers and all the others that are right now seeing that our people are fed, housed, and cared for. You are setting the tone for the world we want to have on the other side of this!
The pandemic didn’t cause these problems. Living in a system that makes it extremely difficult for most of us to have a home, we follow our regret with a shrug. With great effort we can help a few, but to correct the underlying system to serve everybody seems as if it is beyond our control. The same can be said for healthcare, education, food, and all the accoutrements that make for a happy, functional and independent individual or family.
I can’t imagine a more elegant teaching tool than this pandemic to show us that the state of safety of even what we used to call the “least of us” has life-or-death implications for all of us. The wealthiest of us used to be reasonably certain that those of “no account” could live or die with no fear of any fallout for them—no more. The same pandemic has shown us as well that the people who clean up after us and pick our food, the people with the least status and pay, are actually much more important than we thought. If their jobs were so easy and unimportant, we wouldn’t feel the need to get somebody to do them.
Getting back to the Twilight Zone, I think that most of us are beginning to see that the likelihood of a return to the pre-pandemic world is becoming increasingly unlikely. I feel a sense of unease along with the excitement in contemplating that the changes we will be facing will need to equal the magnitude of the pandemic itself. Philosophical, economic, political, and social bedrock are likely to be questioned and altered. Part of what I feel is grief for a world that will never be again, but how much of that grief is for something I cherish and how much for something that is just familiar?
Let’s face it, the pre-pandemic world was not that great. In fact, one might say it was naïve, short sighted, cruel, and it was moving not only our civilization but the entire life system of the planet toward certain destruction. In the midst of it, most of us have struggled to find any meaning or direction whatsoever. The coming of the pandemic is kind of like a benevolent Yahweh gently but firmly stopping us rather than drowning us all in a flood or scorching us with a nuclear cataclysm. With that incredible restraint, our attention has been gotten, and it is incumbent on us to learn something important from it. And it is not just about viruses.
When we come out of this, will we still be concerned about who gets to have the best and the most, or will we be thinking in terms of the welfare of all? Will the “wild west” world we live in submit to law and order? We in the US are especially loath to lose our right to do unto others as we see fit. Could the UN at last become a governing body? The Pandemic, again, is the piece de resistance.
For years, we have been trying to stop the great juggernaut that has been burning through the world’s resources, destroying lives and livelihoods, and making our climate uninhabitable. Now, it has been stopped for us in the most gentle way imaginable. Why would we rebuild something that was destroying the world when we could build something that healed instead? I don’t know about you, but I rue those times when I’ve failed to act because of lack of attention, courage, confidence, or imagination. I don’t want to make that mistake this time.