What is the meaning of life?
What is the meaning of life?...The great revelation...never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.
~ Virginia Woolf ~
I think I can safely say without the risk of too much approbation (now there’s a liberating – although possibly foolhardy – assumption if ever there was!) that I have become something of a Netflix binger on occasion during COVID-19 Time.
I’m also very glad to report that I’ve started to read books again. For those of you that never stopped this may not strike you as much of an accomplishment, but the book readers amongst readers of this newsletter who have ever gone through that drought of not being able to find anything that you can endure for longer than a page or two before having to drift into the pure effortless escapism of a Netflix binge, will understand how momentous it is to be able to say “I am reading again”. Whole books. From cover to cover.
Back to the Netflix binge: I’m not recommending this….I’m not that foolhardy, but I did watch The Leftovers from start to finish in relatively few days. And I don’t know if the good folks at Netflix meant for it to have relevance to COVID-19 Time, but I found some.
On a particular date (14th August, I think?) in a particular, contemporary year, 20% of the population (by which they actually mean the population of the US) disappear. They literally vanish into thin air. This becomes known as The Departure.
Over the course of the series, people come to terms (or not) with this event. And it’s not as if weird stuff doesn’t keep on happening, because it does, but nonetheless, irrevocably, there is adjustment...and acceptance.
There is remembering The Departure, annually, but there is also the narrative about moving on, adjusting, adapting, “going back to normal”.
Needless to say, something like The Departure spawns a great many points of view, many of which are held with religious zeal, and all sorts of positions emerge – creating groups to which people either belong or are ejected from with violence and high drama.
So here are the parallels:
We’re coming to terms with what started off as the unimaginable in reality. It’s been a topsy-turvy ride – the Coronavirus-coaster – but, I’ve talked of this before - this inexorable adjusting to current “reality” (make those large inverted commas!) is just who we are, us humans.
As the adjustments happen, we settle into camps. The ones who still don’t go out, the ones who do. The mask wearers and the ones who sling them around their chins (I mean, really?).
There are a few people who are able to retain a strong, supple relationship to the truth – i.e. “I don’t know”, and there are those who know for sure this is a Democrat inspired conspiracy designed to topple Donald Trump who is meanwhile only doing his best to save children from pornography rings, and from having something forcibly extracted from their bodies in order for it to be turned into an elixir for eternal youth.
There is such a vast chasm between experiences of COVID-19 Time, from the people who have gotten richer, to the ones whose lives have been decimated and lost. Adjusting to the unimaginable in the face of this vast continuum of human experience, well, it’s little wonder people are grasping at straws, and then clinging on as though the straw is a life raft.
What to think?
Now, there is a question.
And how to think it with a light touch, with a wide swathe of question marks all around, how to stay present, aware, open? How, on earth how, to listen with genuine interest, and without attachment, to the ever increasing number of voices who’s whose straws seem flimsy and risible, how to have compassion as the club membership increases in the clubs to which you don’t wish to belong.
And how to make meaning for ourselves, by the kind hand of the small, everyday miracles, in the moments of beauty, tenderness, appreciation, human kindness – flares of light, that illuminate, and in so doing, invite us to drop our defences, and be. Here. Now...brave...cultivating courage...together.