Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday (Pascha – Latin) of THIS year 2020 comes with greater significance than usual. I am not a Catholic, still THIS particular Easter features large in my awareness, probably in my subconscious lies the wish for some kind of resurrection, the garden variety of hope and faith that the average (wo)man hold in our hearts and minds – hope and faith will triumph in the end (won’t it?). For me, that likely finds its source to a sense of heightened death anxiety: COVID-19 is everywhere, there is not a single pore of my being where its spores that signify vulnerability and fear hasn’t wrapped itself around my life. It dominates my conversation with friends, family and work colleagues, the inner workings of my mind turning at double time. I want to get away from it. Yet, there is nothing else but IT. It has impacted every level of society, hence infiltrated most of the layers of my consciousness.
Undoubtedly, my perspective is informed by my vocation in grief and loss. There has been many, many iterations of grief at this period. The raw horror of losing a loved one/s indirectly or directly because of this disease, where the living cannot mourn their dead in accordance with their cultural and familial rituals. Babies are born into the protective, loving arms of mothers and fathers, trying to navigate the newness of parenthood with an acute sense of uncertainty. Countless stories of love and loss in the space between. The groundlessness that accompany what feels like rapid fire changes to State and Federal legislation that asks all of us to duck and dive, as best we can, the aftermath of this crisis, periodically. It calls upon the skills of adaptability and flexibility at a time when no one is untouched by it in some way – a collective encounter of the changes to our lifestyle that are signs of the times.
Not so strange and good in many ways, are the acts of kindness, commitment to courage so witnessed by so many across the world of health workers, neighbours, strangers, the sensitivity of humanity from one with many, one to another. Of course, there are pockets of the human population whose actions and behaviours exemplify a battle mentality. For them aloneness dominates, their fears reign supreme, irrespective of wealth and status. Those who are in touch with their longing for human connection and express it appropriately, invite compassion and empathy. I feel that fear and uncertainty, there is a low wailing – a siren call of peril in my awareness, rousing my survival instincts. As yet, I am not cradling myself in the corner wrapped in my mother’s prized quilt, though that now seems more possible than I ever imagined.
Fortunately, I am expressing myself in socially acceptable ways, connecting with friends from far flung parts of the world more in the last month than the numerous years we have been apart, not because I am a particularly benevolent human creature ALL THE TIME. In fact, having isolated in the company of my family, encapsulated by teenage angst, I am ready for some serious self-isolation. YET, the core of who we are is defined by relationships. We are nothing but the reflection of the relationships we cultivate. The naked truth of our human existence is simply: our primordial senses crave it – that old loving kindness feeling of goodness. Never has my awareness of existing in the sphere of living and dying been more stark. The fragility of it all. The rites of birth and death, in all its metaphoric permutations mired in in the uncharted seas of an existential crisis outside of living memory. We are all moving through the passage of living and dying.
From speaking to others, this is a ubiquitous quest for many – connecting in some way, somehow with a fellow (wo)man. As my friend who lives in New York, amidst the throes of chaos and danger; amongst the millions committed to making some noise for their health workers without fail at 7 om every night – human suffering and solidarity is so deeply felt, reflects: “I keep reminding XX (his partner) that we need to try our best to remember everything as we will always look back on this period in life”. I take from our inter-action – a togetherness as he and I live in our separate realities that we count as the living, what we do matters.
The ancient Greeks described time as twofold: Chronos and Kairos, the former denotes linear time – quantitative and accountable, the latter connotes significant time, qualitative and meaningful in nature. This dastardly devastating period will be in each and every living human being’s chronology. I will bet my last pack of loo roll you will remember your age and location in 2020 for the rest of your living years. But more importantly, when we consider Kairos, the significance, meaning and action this will have: How essential it might be, to make choices that will enrich and enhance our humanity going forward; each of us, in our choosing decide what our future holds, how our future selves will draw lessons from our lived experience that engenders our personal philosophy and wisdom. How will you choose to write this part of your story in time?
Written by Maureen Tan