The splitting of the chrysalis is underway; soon enough our wings will wriggle free and demand flight.
We now have permission to ask the question, “Now what?”
It is time to put our drama of trauma away. Set our claims of victimhood aside. Straighten our backs and turn our faces, once again, into the wind. From this point forward, if we are feeling oppressed or depressed it is no one’s fault but our own. The urgency of suffering and pining for “normal” has slipped from fashionable to just boring.
Two years into the pandemic we have learned a great deal about ourselves as Americans. While we can point to failures of political leadership, our scientists and healthcare providers—doctors, nurses, technicians, and public health officials—performed extraordinarily well; arguably the best in the world. Our failure to successfully quash the pandemic resides within ourselves as individuals. We neither trust each other, nor can be trusted to do the right things. Ignorance is no excuse; it is our uniquely American character that failed us—individually and collectively. The responsible independence that launched an empire of freedom, creating the greatest superpower in the history of the world, morphed into a toxic narcissism that directly resulted in extraordinary suffering and thousands of avoidable deaths.
But, at some time, all the analyses and debates—political, epidemiological, and cultural—do little, if anything, to advance our lives in a meaningful manner. That time is now.
Regardless of our age, race, gender, or ethnicity we are now emerging into our new post-pandemic selves. We have all struggled and experienced loss in different ways and to different degrees. In the same manner as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” pain flows through hearts without a predictable trajectory or outcome. Scar tissue is a certainty, but it is our burden as humans to reconcile these events in our own time and fashion—largely on our own. The best we can do now is to allow space and time and be there for each other when our wings wriggle free.
As many of you know, for me, Nature is god. I never took to the rituals and parables and especially not to the judgments and condemnations of organized religions. While many weep at the sanctity of the divine as sunlight streams through stained glass on the glowing altar of devotion accompanied by the harmony of hymns, my tears are shed with joy in my heart as I rest on a fallen log deep within the forest that shelters its inhabitants under a canopy of life. My sweet peace is found in the eyes of a fox who carefully studies me with the intention of a brother in the realm equanimity. We aren’t just of one world; we are of one heart.
Unlike traditional religions, my Nature-as-god contemplation of spirituality actually has a scientific basis. Quantum Field Theory holds that we are all inescapably linked to one another. As the electromagnetic field and electron field interact, all manner of energy and influence are conveyed by and between all of us, whether animals or plants. Albert Einstein called this “spooky action.” Physicists call it quantum entanglement. I accept it as life. Among other things, it provides the foundation for a concept I first put forward in a graduate school seminar in international relations now more than a dozen years ago: coopetition—competing to cooperate. Win-win rather than win-lose.
Like many of you, I grew up schooled in the ethic of win-lose. It took most of my life to unwind my mind from the needless perniciousness of this paradigm. Unfortunately, the pandemic was addressed principally by old white men like me who can’t let go of this win-lose ethic. The results speak for themselves. And, until and when we can get past this, we have little, if any, hope of succeeding in addressing the more profoundly existential threat of climate change.
Our failure has been literally baked into our future thanks to everything from religions that espouse their particular God as the only legitimate god, to political parties that spend all their time shaming and condemning the other side. We deserve our fate. In the next era (if we are granted one) perhaps we will realize that “spooky action” holds that hurting one another only hurts ourselves resulting in a spiral of collapse. I acknowledge that Jesus Christ would agree with me, but am perplexed and saddened to observe self-proclaimed committed Christians in America acting otherwise every day.
At this point, finding our way (Now what?) is more important than a destination we may never—likely will never—reach. Sweet peace is not the prize at the end of the rainbow, it is the rainbow. Rest assured, in the fog of deceit, given time, truth will prevail. We must remember that life is full of both success and failure, but our learnings come principally from failure. We must keep our hearts and minds open to revelation; add patience and deliberation and the answers will reveal themselves.
Grasping at easy answers and forcing fruition is a fool’s game. Let life reveal itself in a manner that assures durable enhancements to our lives. Likes, clicks, and memes are trash that clutters the gutters of our souls. To know something “by heart” means more than memorization; it means we have learned from the heart, with our hearts, which provide the great mitigators to calm our frenetic minds. Knowledge emanating from our minds and beliefs from our hearts must be carefully balanced; curated with our eyes set on a distant horizon.
Our time has come to live in silent jubilation for being spared during the worst of the pandemic. We must accept what we owe ourselves and each other: an acknowledgment of our obligations and dependencies to the spiritual realm of being that does not differentiate humans from other animals, or even other organisms. This is the only path forward. The destination may not be within our control, but our intentions and direction of travel are. As Mary Oliver wrote in her poem, “The Journey”:
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Welcome back, everyone. Your life is yours again.
Please express it with due humility and care.