This is an opportunity to re-evaluate how we do life
Life is...was...full of a lot of distractions and a lot of things vying for our attention, our money, our focus, and our devotion. This time of social distancing should be good if, for nothing else, it presents us with an opportunity to look at the mirror. There is something in the irony that for many of us, the non-essentials are regularly confused with essentials. It is one of the reasons why giving up on some of the non-essentials is so hard for many of us: their proximity to the central features of our lives is a matter of (perhaps, well-intentioned) duplicity. Many of us, over the past months, have had to purge what has not been truly essential in order to accommodate to the present demands.
This is truly a time to ask the question 'What is essential'? How do we use this time, as hard and painful as it is, to become better individually and culturally?
Have we forgotten how to play and imagine? Have we forgotten how to live in charity rather than gratification? Have we forgotten about justice for the sake of expediency? Do we believe things about ourselves and the world that need to be called into question? Do we live with duplicity in that we say one thing and live by another? If so, what do we need to do to strip that from our lives? Do we centralize things in our lives that belong at the boundaries or peripheries?
Now is not the time of God's judgement, but of our own: 'a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. - Pope Francis
We can still find those essential pleasures that will help us through this. In this sense, now might be a time to differentiate between those pleasures that help us grow and orient ourselves properly and those that minimize us and distract us from proper living. Indeed, we may find some unexpected and forgotten ones. We may find ones that are subtle: a smile, a laugh, dancing with a child, the stars above us or the wind around us. Perhaps it is a book that you once started but never finished or a hobby that you've started that you've fallen in love with. Or maybe its the planting of a garden, which presents a much more economical and environmental response to our consumptions (i.e. we both expanded our garden and got chickens--don't ask me, though, what trauma I faced from having to catch those chickens!).
But now is also a time for restructuring life, our needs, our sanctities, our commitments, and our essentials both at the individual and cultural level. I would venture to say that the prophetic voice in any crisis should always call us to a place where we evaluate what it is that we believe.
My fear is that our society as a collective entity won't utilize this time for reflection and evaluation. Many of us are fearful (and the concerns are, for the most part, warranted). Many of us are stressed, bored, confused, and hurting. But the truth is that despite the crisis at hand which affects us in all sorts of indirect and passive ways, we have a genuine possibility to respond to it in direct and actionable ways.
This is a time where individually and collectively we should be productively asking certain questions: what is essential? what needs to be changed? what beliefs do we have the need to be dispensed with? where do we place our security and trust? what would make us better individually and collectively? how should we re-prioritize our commitments and concerns?
There are thoughts to many of these questions that I have wrestled with but I am asking you to wrestle with them with me. What do we want us to be in the aftermath of this or will we simply settle for going back to what we were?