It’s not easy to write in the middle of a tsunami or a pandemic either for that matter. It seems like a good opportunity, one might think, all the bars are closed and people’s usual activities like dating, eating-out and shopping aren’t options at all, but it’s just hard to focus when you’ve got too much on your mind.
Shelter in place is the directive from on high. I was already pretty much hunkered down in life but this is extreme. I can’t help but to wonder though as many of us do, what about those other folks, what about the restless ones, the homeless and the lonesome ones?
I’m not complaining about a time for writing or saying it’s easy for folks to stay home and wait for weeks or months for the all clear signal either, shelter in place indeed. Some people don’t even have a place and others surely hate the place they’re in. That’s the law now though in our little town. Something like that, shelter in place they tell us but that can go several ways, good idea hard to do. Some of us will be snapping as this time and these changes and this uncertainty and fear are real and hard to bear.
My daughter wanted to take-off for Nashville the other day. I told her I’d have to put the strict dad thing on her about that. I told her that I’d rather say a strong no today than to have to say no to her in a couple weeks if she were to try to get back home, after this virus has spread itself all over. That would be really terrible, “no honey you can’t come in”. She decided to stay home once it was put to her that way. I’m sure glad she did! I imagine that a lot of people will have some tough choices in the months ahead. Life, death, financial ruin, relationships straining, minds poppin.
I think for most of us it’s just so hard to believe it’s all true. Weird considering so many of us have been expecting something cataclysmic to break for many years now. We were also waiting for a revolution or something cool and instead we get this lousy pandemic. I guess that’s what we harvest for waiting so long, waiting for someone else to do it, waiting on that revolution. Well that someone is here now, Covid-19. Doing for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. But I don’t trust Covid, too self-serving and I don’t know if I trust the revolution either, we never did agree on what that revolution would look like other than that, well, it wouldn’t be on TV.
Nothing pops people out of the same old state of mind quite like a totally unexpected crisis, that no one was prepared for, with no prior knowledge of what to do when it hit. It’s all fresh territory for us here now. It’s a whole new rodeo, no that’s not it, not a rodeo, not a circus, something different, something that blows through the air, something like a strange and mournful whisper blowing through the vacant streets and empty shops, outdoor cafes and parking lots. It’s here though and it’s as real as those empty shelves and dwindling supplies and savings and as real as those friends we miss and those opportunities we’re losing, the opportunities we were preparing ourselves for, the ones we won’t get back, It’s as real as the totalitarian nightmare we’ve been so worried would finally catch-up with us.
There are folks out there doing some of the real work, the good work. Those ones were likely already there doing that work but now they’ve stepped it up. Food banks, food deliveries, assistance for the elderly, assistance for the scared and those still frozen with fear and disbelief, nurses and cashiers, garbage collectors, teachers working from home, people delivering mail and supplies, people sewing masks and people drawing money from their reserves to share with others. There’s a whole new kind of hero now. Their only weapons are their faith and their courage. They don’t quit and we’ll lose a few of them to the virus, you can count on that. That’s the price of sainthood.
There are also those folks, we know who they are, they’ve shown their faces, some of them anyway, who will use this moment to do their work, the work of devils.
Anger and blame swell up in some minds, looking for the scapegoat but the anger comes in part from knowing we’re all to blame, you’re to blame, I’m to blame, we all did or didn’t do something, played some part in the play, some part that got us all to this place and this moment in time. If you can’t take at least some responsibility for your complicity in the workings of the world, well then what can we say, you’re either fooling yourself or you’re a lair.
Some if not much of the anger we may feel can reasonably and rightly be directed towards those who in positions of leadership and influence continue to make decisions that are harmful, deadly even to masses of real human beings while setting examples and setting the tone for even more, even worse atrocities than what we have already seen. We will not free ourselves from the wrath and works of violent, destructive and greedy men however by following in their way. If it’s a new social reality that we want, we will have to work together in new ways to create it.
For some the best refuge from the crises is love, plain and simple. They cast out their sorrow by opening their own broken hearts to the love of life, love of their neighbors; love for their countries and towns and a bit of love of course reserved for themselves. For some refuge is staying busy, for some it’s a time to learn or grow gardens or to clean the house, anything to stay busy, anything to stay sane and positive.
So what about that revolution we so persistently dream of? Could this be it? It’s peaceful outside right, so that’s half the battle won. Can we arise to the other half, throw off and lose this government that has failed to satisfy? Have we ever had less need for a government than this one that we so unfortunately have now? Good grief this government can’t even get a sensible message out to the public during a health crisis or put on a good and convincing bluff for us, their huddled masses to swallow at this delicate point in time. They’ll make us all a lot of ridiculous and inadequate offers, get us fighting between ourselves for the scraps of their artificial money but you can bet there will be and are plenty of strings attached to any help they offer, enough I’m sure to tie us into knots. We’re crazy to expect much help from them as we know how they are, how they save us in times of crises. It’s not that we don’t need help it’s that we don’t need their kind of help, the kind that comes with strings that bind us, the kind that’s nothing but a promise tied a lie which is tied to a totalitarian nightmare.
What we need of course is each other. We can grow the same amount of corn this year as we did last year unless even nature fails us now, which it might do seeing that we left climate pollution to run amok for so long. So with luck there’s food and water and space enough, it’s just the government sponsored and personal hoarding and limited distribution that keeps it out of reach at times. We can fight it out to see who ends up with the loot or we can refrain from fighting by sharing down, not expecting more than what we work towards because in the real world, even corn doesn’t grow without the farmer and the loaf is never baked by those too idle to fire up the oven. Yes your peaceful revolution will require some effort and it will require some sacrifice and some personal changes too. Otherwise, we can go on back to the same, same old and forget about revolutions.
We saw a great example of what a peaceful revolution could look like. For a flash of time, back in the glory days, when so many of us changed our minds, at least for a moment. No one knew it was coming or personally, by themselves as lone individuals went out and made it happen. It came like a miracle. We just got up in it without really trying at all. Suddenly there were millions of people, around the world from every race and culture and tribe and class turning on to a different drum. Peace, love, peace, love, searching, reaching, understanding. Free love and gardens, babies born at home, taking time for art and pleasure, breaking boundaries of prejudice, oppression, class, countries, sexes. We had civil rights, Black Panthers, Native American rights, women’s rights, gay rights, freak outs, love-ins and sit downs, a time of amazing unity, solidarity, shared purpose and conviction.
We went back to the Earth and walked away from corporations, went back to the Earth, started farms, co-ops, day care centers, schools, work at home industries. We shunned cars and chemicals and plastic, T.V.s and up-tight phony messengers. We made our own music and started community theaters and yoga studios. All of this and more we did but for some reason, after a bit of time and under pressure from “The Man” we walked away from it, at least enough walked away to leave it all practically forgotten, left to those who would then make it the butt of stereotypical jokes at times or just misrepresent the thing for sensationalistic effect in bad movies. We did it all though, we did the whole thing, millions of us, without anyone telling us what to do, without anyone directing us or capitalizing on us. There were no leaders except for those who led by the virtue of their example, by reading a poem or moving to the country, by getting in a groove and living it, showing up. Things were done by consent and for and through the love of doing the thing. For one brief moment there was a kind of paradise on earth, and then it crashed.
For those who missed it, that epic, magical time, it’s lives on as a myth, a legend, a story or a dream but there are still many here among us who know it was more than just a dream, they lived it. Some involved in the early years were like the headlight on a train and some like me saw only the tail of it streaming across the sky like a comet but we saw it and I’ve always know that if we saw it once we could see it again.
Revolution for many may be nothing but an abstraction, a vague idea of something but hard to explain. For some it’s the turmoil and chaos that they see and they may not be able to look beyond that, a kind of looting and tearing down. For some a revolution may just be some new face telling them what to do, for some it’s them telling someone else what to do. But none of that will bring us peace if we want something better than capitalistic republics turning fascist over time or some other nightmare totalitarian state lording over the subjected people.
Grabbing hold of this moment, this opportunity in time will not be easy if we go to it as a fight against traditional power and principalities. They’ve been practicing violence and oppression and lining–up to beat us down for ages. They have weapons and control the traditional supply lines. The have a media empire that tells people what to think do and sadly they have goons, our neighbors that is, that will try to enforce their failed systems even after it’s apparent that the system has failed, we are somewhere near that point now. But the workings and systems didn’t stop us from bringing on some of the largest cultural changes in ages fifty years ago and there’s no reason they should stop us now. The current challenge and necessary action now is to bring about the political changes that must accompany the social changes we’ve already partly addressed and moved this far forward. The trick I believe lies in part in keeping as much distance as we can between us and those powers and principalities that currently rule over and dictate to us the meaning of our lives.
So the revolution starts in the individual and at home and moves out into our gardens and over to our neighbors and down the block and across town. It too starts out like a whisper but not a sinister or menacing sound; it’s a sound like the cooing of a faraway dove or the sound of a baby finding their toes for the first time. It’s the sound of lovers and friends in deep conversation, the sound of cooperation, the sound of love, peace and happiness, the sound of a great challenge and a joyful song rising up in our hearts.