Notes from Quarantine
"'Life' does not mean something vague, but something very real and very concrete, just as life's tasks are also very real and concrete." - Viktor Frankl, "Man's Search for Meaning", pg. 77
One of the most interesting things that I've noticed since we began this experience of "social distancing" is that I see my neighbors more and more. I've talked with them more, I've seen them out walking, playing with their kids, working on their homes. Amidst what is a global crisis, my neighborhood has not just "carried on" it has in some way, flourished.
Similarly, I am both grateful and humbled by the degree to which we as a collective have been able to, on a moment's notice, shift our focus to those things which are truly important - those human and adamantine elements of life. Suddenly, we are not so distant from our neighbor. Suddenly, our homes become more than just a place to eat, sleep, and prepare for the next day's work. Suddenly, we are aware of those who aren't able to provide for themselves or their families, and we see the value in something as simple as a loaf of bread. Life - it seems, is much more and much more real a thing than the constructs we apply to it. What seems valuable to us and even "necessary" when things are "normal" are to some extent - illusory. The irony of course is that when we become aware that Mordor threatens our Shire, we treasure more what we had all along, and realize that what and how much we love is truly what defines us. In experiencing this event in history, we ought to be keenly aware of the reality of life - not what we have built on sand, but the foundation of what it truly means to live.
What we see clearly as important during a crisis is in fact, what is truly important. I'm reminded of Flannery O'Connor's Misfit who remarked of the woman who he had killed “She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
I pray for all of you, especially my students, that you and your families are safe and well. Know that we are all in need, and we must respond to this time as we are called to respond to all times - with immeasurable love. When we reflect on this time, let us remember the great effort that humanity exerted to bring those concrete and human goods to those in need. Let us think about how we deny those efforts to others when things are "normal" and let us pray that we may grow in love and in service to God and each other.
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