We are now approaching two months living into this new disrupting personal and social condition. Impacts have been various, determined by physiologies not yet known, preexistent medical conditions, economic placements, psychological dispositions and, sadly, racial and economic inequities, again, now made glaring. One halting aspect of this epidemic is its pervasiveness and invisibility which ultimately means that the way each of us moves through the world bears, even mortally, on others. If we use the image of personal actions and responsibility as reflecting a more comprehending truth, namely, we are all, for our well-being or misery, intrinsically connected biologically, intellectually, emotionally, in every human dimension. Understanding and enacting this multi-dimensional web of mutuality in our being together, opened out to include the natural world as well, will serve and secure our survivability, but also happiness, and from a faith perspective, our soul and spirit.
This World/American corona crisis has highlighted and confirmed VEC’s vision and mission to serve the common good, serve human needs and well-being, while presupposing and working toward a unity in diversity, and addressing inequities through the empowerment of participation. While I have been relegated to stay at home for physical vulnerabilities, it has been a joy and inspiration to witness the VEC team in action in response to the upheavals of the coronavirus, the courage, commitment, creativity, and collaborations, both inside and out. For us, for other institutions, communities, our country, and beyond, if there is something to be gained through losses, it will be to the extent we name and allow and choose for our transformation newly emerged or forgotten valuations. To name a few large but simple ones: the simple fact that the nature of our belonging to one another, worldwide, nationally, in the neighborhood, is total, and demands new ways of imagining life together; nature has quickly been showing signs of cleansing; and another reality folks have named is that, for many, the pace and breath of our lives has compromised simply spending time with family. We can all name the life enhancements we have recently seen come to the fore. It will be the ones we see together, and agree, and set our feet to, which will transform our lives together.
As many have recently said, the coronavirus is making manifest the best and the worst of human beings. It also makes manifest enduring human tensions and issues, social, political, and I would add as someone who thinks of these things, existential. It is our confrontation with the loss of final control, ultimately mortality, which spins out all our other stresses and is the backdrop of our ultimate anxiety. Far from being a damper, reflection on mortality can be purifying and lightening since it brings life into focus. For the last several years thefollowing words of Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, have been for me something of a koan. He writes in Markings, “Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.” At a breakthrough turning point in his life Hammarskjold arrived at a transformative understanding of “Thanks!” and “Yes!” “For all that has been—Thanks!” “To all that shall be—Yes!” However we understand to translate the meaning of “Thanks!” and “Yes!” to our own life and history, it is an answer to the problem of death. “If I must die someday, what can I do to fulfill my desire to live?”
Let us each, and all, follow the threads of “Thanks!” where we are grateful for life’s presentations,and “Yes” where we are relaxing, surrendering, and consenting to life’s presentations. Following the threads lead to “Thanks!” and “Yes!” permeating the whole of life, even into our contradictions and failures. I suspect we will find, each of us configured within the contours of a unique life, a shared horizon of our belonging together, and where we are giving ourselves away for the life of others, we may note the bubbling up out of us and between us a life and love that is freely given and is our security and joy, and future.
Co-founder/Director of Multi-Faith Services
Village Exchange Center