Today is the last day of the second month of lockdown. Six weeks have passed - for some, in a flash, for others achingly slowly. It's surprising how quickly something which was imaginable only in films and novels has become a reality. But, as many have observed, the vision of Hollywood dystopia and societal breakdown has not (yet) become a reality - only in those pictures of empty spaces - and it does seem to me that, so far, humanity has surprised itself.
In fact, during last night's Rule of Life evening we were asked to say what had surprised us most about the lockdown? There was a wide range of responses - from the delight of observing the arrival of spring to the challenge of being so very much alone. I said that for me the most surprising was the sense of human fragility and our vulnerability - but, in retrospect, I think I might have said that what surprises me is the robustness of the human desire to love and be loved. Most of us have, in this weird new normal, worked out structures and ways of communicating which are notable in their generosity and thougtfulness, and - although this isn't by any means universal - many are finding a new value in old and new relationships and discovering new things about one another. I think there aren't many Hollywood apocalyptic films which predicted that!
In some ways, I think, the lockdown has brought out our natural characteristics. It's seen most clearly among those in power: the autocrats and narcissists have used this crisis as a way to try to grab power while the thoughtful and able leaders have led with skill and empathy. But for me, the overriding change has been the very obvious deepening of our natural desire to love and be loved, and to discover what we can offer one another as a gift in this time of crisis.
If it continues, that may come under threat: but for now I take comfort and courage from this surprising demonstration of the human care for the common good. It's an undermining of the gospel of consumerism and I hope that the lessons learned will continue, as normality, eventually, starts to return...
One practical thing. During the Rule of Life evening we tried the Zoom feature of breakout rooms - going into small groups to chat - and it worked well. So we thought we might try that at coffee time after church on Sunday. An experiment!
Here is a poem which was shared by Jo Cox during the coffee morning yesterday. It resonates well with my thoughts this morning. It's about the journey of the Magi, so, really, Epiphany rather than Easter. But hey. Thanks Jo for bringing it, and to Hermione Roff the poet for allowing us to share it.
The night after the morning before.
Strange to say it was the
Dream that confirmed the
Reality of what they had
Encountered. They remembered how their
Weighted worlds had
Fluttered compellingly toward Him. He had
Stirred the deep forbidden pools of
Childhood love within them. They had
Held this child, rocked Him,
Stroked His curly head. If they
Lost Him now, what would they not
Give to have Him back?
They had prepared so
Carefully for the
Journey. Gold to buy safe passage through
Alien lands. Incense to protect and
Appease the gods of
Foreign tribes. Myrrh to ward off the
Microbes from the shadow bio-spheres of
Other cultures. Now they saw how the
Beliefs which serve
Privilege, status and inequality had
Infected their minds, how the
False substitutions of
Wealth and power had
Corroded their hearts. How they had
Assumed the predator role of thinking to
Buy love while withholding
But He had
Accepted their racked and ruined
Worlds. They had poured out the
Poverty of their riches before
Him. Their intellectual constructions of love
Melted and became alive in the fires of
Impossible now to return home the
Same way. In abandoning the
Calculus of risk, life in all its
Fullness awaited them, a
Costly life of love,
Service and sacrifice.
So from dawn to dusk they will
Sing their songs of joy.
Hermione Roff : Jan 2010
With my love, and much prayer, as ever,