I belong to an online synagogue. Someone posed a question to all of us to write in five words or less what we’re looking forward to this week. I wrote “Making sense of all this” which leads me to attempt to write this piece that you are now reading.
How do we “make sense of all this?” Do we look at the angst of being locked down to avoid causing others’ or our own deaths? Do we look at the new opportunities we have for re-orienting ourselves and take it as a transformative moment? Do we try to derive some meaning from the situation? Do we learn to bake sourdough bread? Are there answers as varied as there are people? Honestly, all I can do is speak from my own vantagepoint.
Savoring the special moments
I find that my answers vary from moment to moment. The intensity of our restrictions has led me to savor the special moments more than I have done in the past.
I love having more time with my husband. We’ve been together for 52 years and slowing down my busyness outside of the house has been a gift for our relationship. Also, having combined households after quarantining I have the special moments with my almost six-year-old grandson, drawing together, doing theatre exercises, watching the Marx Brothers doing the mirror sketch and trying it out ourselves, just hearing his take on the world right now, his sweet voice (when he’s not being a dinosaur). I love the brief moments of holding my 3-week-old granddaughter, watching her fleeting smiles and hearing her sweet sounds. Our joint family Shabbat dinner Friday night has a new intensity and meaningfulness, especially after our months of having to be apart.
Hiking, while masked, of course, to the top of Mt. Davidson each day reminds me that in spite of all this angst, there is the beauty of nature – the trees blowing in the wind, the birds singing, the view of San Francisco from the top of the mountain, the fresh air, sometimes misty and sometimes clear.
Yes, I am baking sourdough country loaves and English Muffins and challah. I don’t think it’s an accident that so many of us are baking bread right now. Whether your yeast is store-bought or created, yeast grows – it’s alive, it’s kneaded and needed, and it helps to create a beautiful, delicious food that feeds the body and the soul.
Becoming more conscious of social justice issues
The seriousness of our situation across the entire planet seems to have opened our hearts more. I don’t think it’s an accident that white people are finally on board with the Black Lives Matter movement. Our avoidance because of discomfort is not an option and we are finally aware of this. Society will change because of this pandemic!
Learning to pay attention to science
We are being made even more aware of the contribution of scientists to our well-being. Maybe more people will take global warming seriously after realizing that our lives depend upon the skills being applied worldwide by epidemiologists and virology experts.
This lockdown has encouraged me to meditate more and to be more contemplative. Yesterday I read the recently published in English book, Yes to Life in Spite of Everything. Viktor Frankl helps me to make sense of everything. In the prologue, Daniel Goleman reflects upon Frankl’s perspective about how we find meaning no matter what our circumstance. Here he is talking about life in a concentration camp, surely a more angst-ridden condition than what we are experiencing, yet . . . (bold, italics mine)
“Despite the cruelty visited on prisoners by the guards, the beatings, torture, and constant threat of death, there was one part of their lives that remained free: their own minds. The hopes, imagination, and dreams of prisoners were up to them, despite their awful circumstances. This inner ability was real human freedom; people are prepared to starve, he saw, ‘if starvation has a purpose or meaning.’ The lesson Frankl drew from this existential fact: our perspective on life’s events—what we make of them—matters as much or more than what actually befalls us.
– Frankl, Viktor E.. Yes to Life (p. 17). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.
How do you make sense of this? I’d love to hear your perspective.