I had a mentor once tell me about the moment Why Me changed to Why not me? I’ll keep the details of what caused the shift but will say it had to do with loss. Unexpected loss. Reality is easy to accept when I find it acceptable. It’s when it makes little sense, involves the seemingly bad, that I find it hard to accept. And without acceptance, I cannot find the clarity to respond. All I know is when I fight reality, I lose. It’s when why me becomes why not me that certain unknowns about life become lived in experience and not abstract concepts.
Maybe that is what is meant by the age old question… are you experienced?
I am grateful that I have made a living in an unpredictable volatile career for decades that has prepared me for the simple fact that sometimes there are times we are never quite prepared for. That our lives are filled with dark matter. And now so is our world; That will be forever changed by this thing we do not yet understand – that had already brought out the worst and best in us.
The Latin root of the words for humor, humanity, human, humility is humus– which not only means of the earth – it also means (according to one of my favorite books Spirituality of Imperfection) gray decaying plant and animal matter, specifically. So, let’s laugh at our humanity – that in the end – what makes us human is what makes us worm food.
Uncertainty is what drives all of us in these times– with that dull flutter. The future hangs. And the past feels distant. Even a day or two ago feels on the wrong side of some shroud. But this present is where we are. And I find great opportunity in all of this for each of us to grow. For, collectively, humanity to grow. A Renaissance always follows the dark ages. It always has and it always will.
But the first casualty of this dark era – will be western entitlement. And in the fallout of our exceptionalism will grow a deeper compassion – i hope. I pray. I trust. Not only that, I put my faith in that simple fact. And once that compassionate heart takes root and flowers more in each of us as I have seen it – our actions will take on a different tenor and the world will change. It is spring after all. And spring only knows to grow. From that soil. That dark earthly matter of compound plant and animal waste. Uncertainty is the natural state of things. And the constructs of our world have blinded us to that – now we get to experience it and by experiencing it nudge ourselves and those around us toward a better future.
I was reminded the other day back when I was just realizing how many times I touch my face about a conversation I had with my father. He was telling me about a memory he had abut being five years old and the war was on and there was a shortage on soap. And that it had just hit the shelves and Grandma Agnes shooed him off to the local corner market to buy some after he saw the truck pull up on a recon run up the alley. I take comfort in those stories and the testimonials we celebrate in Studs Terkel’s Hard Times or on STORYCORPS about other insurmountable things people have overcome by relying on each other and some kind of faith in goodness. We need our stories to remind us that although this new virus is novel, we have endured through loss, uncertainty, sacrifice, and fear many times before. And it was silly of us to believe these times would not recycle. So… why not us?
But – our world views may get smashed. Our sense of God may change – but in changing it will deepen. Faith tested and tempered by action only improves. Because our understanding is finite to begin with – that’s what makes us human, of the earth etc.. we expand and cut the distance between heaven and earth – just like that painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that is now shuttered for the foreseeable future. But – the death of entitlement, as brutal as it is, for many of us who have experienced the good fortune of not even knowing how fortunate we have been – will bring with it greater humanity. And— that very thing may save us; against the sins of our past visited upon each other, the world, and future generations. One thing is certain in this great uncertainty that touches six out of seven continents –the choices we make will be altered forever by this. Even if that asshole still sits on his golden throne and tries to steal credit for this. He can fuck off because humanity is on the rise.