Gimme Shelter

March 25, 2020

Hello! Greetings from the edge of … whatever new world we will enter once this surreal season is over. I don’t know what the post-coronavirus world will bring, but I think we need to start imagining what we WANT it to look like. For one: I want indie bookstores to continue to thrive, and that’s going to take some effort on all of our parts right now. If you have the means, please order your “social distancing” reading materials from an indie. They need us. Amazon does not.

Looking for a good podcast during this time? I love On Being with Krista Tippett. I just listened to her interview Rebecca Solnit, and I pretty much want to quote everything Solnit said, as she was brilliant and wise. Here’s some of what she talked about:

1. History looks more like the weather, not a game of checkers. Meaning, it can change suddenly and quickly and is not a game we can easily master or control. Sometimes change comes from seemingly nowhere (though that “new” weather system might have been brewing under the surface for a long time) and often it surprises us.

2. The dominant narrative often exists in order to serve those in power. There is a narrative that in catastrophe, we become our worst, Social-Darwinist selves: selfish, brutal, dog-eat-dog. Solnit argues that humanity’s true cooperative nature is often revealed in catastrophe. We recognize our connectedness. We slow down. We awaken to the brevity of our lives, and we reach out to connect with each other while we have breath. We are told that in catastrophe, we will live in a Mad Max world, but that is a Hollywood worldview, and too often Hollywood lies.

3. Change and progress are not linear. The efforts you are making to bring about justice RIGHT NOW might not seem fruitful, but might pay off 200 years down the line. Justice is a long-game, and sometimes an entire lifetime is not enough time to see the arc of history bend toward it.

Contemplating all of the above is really helping me stay grounded during all of this. Of course, it doesn’t ease the fact that we are in a genuine crisis, but I’m trying to remember that the “crisis point” in an illness is when things are EITHER going to change for the worse (death) or the patient will get better. So, there is opportunity for real change. Not that our national leadership is up for the challenge of, you know, helping to protect the lives of the people of this country, but as the serenity prayer goes: I’m trying to learn to accept what I can’t control. (And yeah, I’ll be trying to help control the situation come next November.)

Here’s what I can control: staying home as much as possible (which is pretty much always, except for my daily walk). Finding joy in the extra time I have with my hilarious, nearly 6-year old son. Being gentle and easy with my spouse. Cooking good food and setting up a card table on the front porch so we can listen to the birdies chirp away as we eat dinner. Meditating daily. (I’ve been using the Ten Percent Happier app and it’s amazing.) Checking in with people. Attending Zoom cocktail hours! Staying connected to my church. Bringing as much greenery into the house as I can. Yesterday, my son cut a bunch of backyard flowers and made a gorgeous bouquet, that he insists on keeping in his room. (Fine, fine, even though it would look so good on the dining room table!) And I’ve even got two avocado pits going right now, trying to get them to sprout!

Perhaps most crucially, I’m trying to remember that throughout human history, we have gone through hard and scary things. We are wired to do this—to take care of each other, either by being on the frontlines as our hospital heroes are, or by hunkering down and staying home, and finding ways within those limits to help those most vulnerable.

And just think, even in quarantine, we connect through music and books and conversations. What a gift. What a blessing.