“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
“We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul — not the grim strength of gritting your teeth, but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy.” — Colossians 1:11
Is it the End of the World?
Or is it more like, the end of the world . . . As We Know It?
And, if it’s the end of the world as we know it, is THAT the end of the world?
So, how is your mood right about now? How are you working through all of the changes and interruptions into your daily routine?
And when we do, it’s only to find that these adaptations are outdated within 24 hours. In fact, just this week we’ve gone from:
“ . . . no gatherings of more than 250″
” . . . gatherings no larger than 125″
” . . . make that 50″
” . . . no 10″
“… oh, what the heck — we’re closing all clubs, restaurants, entertainment parks, houses of worship, and bars!”
And now we’re hearing that we may be looking at “shelter-in-place” home quarantines in the very near future, too.
It feels very dystopian, doesn’t it?
You’re probably remembering the dystopian apocalyptic movies of your past – Omega Man, The Last Man on Earth, A Boy and His Dog, Water World, The Day After Tomorrow, Mad Max (all of them). And the more viral variety – Zombie Land, Day of the Dead, The Walking Dead, Contagion, Outbreak, Pandemic, The Andromeda Strain. (I don’t recommend you watch any of them right now!) But you may be eerily recalling a time when these seemed like wild ideas that could never really happen . . . right?
So, first: if you’re having massive anxiety from all this and just can’t possibly deal with any more bad news or big changes, and you’re already doing all the right stuff (social distancing among small groups, staying at home, washing hands, holding your breath for 10 seconds (oh, wait, that one doesn’t help), then you don’t really need to read on.
Just know I’m offering you a big virtual hug and “Nano Nano” (tell me you remember this one). Please get back to your book reading in the tub or mindful gardening in the front yard as you wave to neighbors and families walking down your block.
We are hearing from one another through Facebook and texting, and Zoom (probably a good stock choice at the moment) and realizing little by little we will get through this. Our lives and love and inter-relatedness is rooted in a greater mystery of love that holds us all together even when we don’t see it — or one another. (And, for some wake up, and hit the sack reading, check out Psalm 139 at the beginning and end, Colossians — most of it — and maybe a little Mary Oliver and Rumi to make it interesting).
Now, for those of us who find ourselves equating “the end of the world” with “the end of the world as we know it,” life interruptions are hard. Change is challenging to say the least.
Pandemics are in the “senseless, unbalanced, chaos” realm of change where everything seems surreal and you hear folks saying things like: “It’s not as bad as they’re saying,” “It’s just a hoax, or a political move,” or even “I’d rather get it now and get it over with.”
The reality of such unreal, overwhelming, and forced changes creates more than simply fear. For some of us it creates a deeply existential unrest. As someone who has struggled with bouts of depression and experiences occasional panic attacks, I get the idea of existential unrest. And for folks who are in isolation and separated from loved ones (in the hospital, or in retirement communities, or at distances unable to be traveled), this can be unbearable.
I can’t even imagine it.
For now, though, I invite you to think of God as love, and love as something as deeply rooted in our lives as the budding of a new leaf or flower on this first day of Spring. Think of God as the deep cleansing breath, feeling of the gift of oxygen, and even our ability to smile (or force a smile if need be) that literally causes a chain reaction of dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin to our brain.
This kind of thinking can instantly relieve our sense of dread, if only for a moment. Beyond that, of course, are the many ways we can still show love to our neighbors, our family, and our friends. We can connect online, or on the phone, or in our writing (to others and even to ourselves).
So, what if the end of the world as we know it isn’t really the end of the world at all, but an invitation to something new?
On Sunday, March 22, join us live online at 11:11 am for eleven:eleven downtown, week 2 of our Covid-19 online edition!
Charme and I are going to talk a little more about this — and then show you some of the images of wonder and hope and innovation in the face of fear that we’re seeing these days. (You may want to share some. too!) Brad Thompson and a few of the Revolution Band members will join with songs from REM, Alec Murdoch, and Susan Tedeschi.
You can find us on Sunday morning live, here (and be sure to register your attendance so we’ll know you were with us!). And, if you want to watch it later, you can find this service and all our archives online.
It’s so good to know that in an unprecedented reality as we are in, we can still keep up with each other online! “See” you Sunday.
Take care and see you then!
Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven