What if ... we chose to see this virus moment and this people’s revolt as an opening – a moment long enough to see ourselves, see the systems we’ve lived under for so long, and see our culture and what it has done to us and to the Earth?
What if we were to clarify where we are personally and collectively, clarify what no longer serves us, and clarify what this recent lockdown has done that may be working better for all of us?
This pandemic is a huge wake-up call to economic imbalances, racial disparities, political struggles, injustices ignored and environmental disasters. What if, instead of plowing ahead to “reopen” and get back to “business as usual,” we gave ourselves and our communities a chance to create a new world, a new identity built on diversity and care? A healing? A renewal? As Johanna Macy calls it, “a morally rewarding, physically appealing and life-sustaining culture.”
In the meantime, the recent protests and uprisings have forced us to an in-between place with the reopenings. None of us knows what’s to come, and for some, it may be unsettling. Our cultural foundations are crumbling before our eyes. We seem to have an opportunity now to create a complete social and personal transformation. Perhaps we’re having a disintegration of society as we know it, so we can evolve to a more inclusive, more responsible world. As Ron Pevny says in his “Conscious Living, Conscious Aging”: “Where we confront the dragons of uncertainty, grief, hopelessness, doubt, and seeming loss of control as being the place from which new strength and vision emerges ... we are cracked open ... and the work of significant passage takes months or even years.” It can be painful. This is painful!
Do we really need to open everything back up so soon? My heart goes out to all who have lost businesses, jobs (including myself) and their whole financial base, let alone all the people who are suffering from the virus itself. But do we want to rush back into the exploitation of people, communities and living systems? Back to the growth-obsessed industrial society along with more irreversible damage to our planet? Can’t we take more of this turbulent time to lay the foundation for new and healthier realities? We must do this better!
Some ecologically positive things have happened, even in these three months of shutdown. Global greenhouse gas emissions are expected to fall by 8% this year – the largest on record. New gas and oil permits are down by 96% in April from a year ago, and animals are roaming freely without so many people around. Hope. Earth has the ability to heal if we meet it halfway.
So what can we do? This is personal and must come from a place of gratitude – gratitude that we love this life and Earth so much it breaks our hearts to see it in such shambles. Then we can act. Maybe we really take a look at racial differences and make change. Maybe employers look at the bottom line as being the welfare of their employees. Maybe we need to have more decentralization of the food system to become more regional. Maybe we donate to one of the nonprofits dealing with something we care about – the Earth, fair wages, health care for all. Maybe we join one of the Indivisible committees – climate, immigration, civil rights, health care, freedom of the press, public lands, sustainability, among many. Or work for a political candidate this election season. Or maybe we just want to be more thoughtful and caring in our relationships, in what we buy and how gently we trod on the Earth.
I write – this column, letters to politicians, letters to others who make a difference. Maybe you make protest art, or protest music, or plant a protest garden to feed your neighbors. Appropriate expression of controlled rebellion is needed.
Things are so uncertain. But along with the impermanence of things and daunting obstacles ahead, we are capable of powerful transformative experiences that open us to new horizons of meaning and understanding. Look at the ’60s! As we move forward, let us be healthier, more united, ethical, cooperative, inclusive, honest and equal.
Martha McClellan was a developmental educator in early childhood for 38 years. She has moved her focus now to the other end of life and written a book, “The Aging Athlete: What We Do to Stay in the Game.” Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.