Pandemic Crisis and Our Search for Meaning
Historic Global Pandemic Impacts Humanity
Eyes Wide Open
During an online sermon at the Washington National Cathedral in the nation's capital, The Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, challenged her viewers with an exercise in spiritual introspection. In her message, Bishop Budde had us explore how the entrance of the coronavirus into our lives had impacted and changed our perceptions, and revealed our vulnerabilities.
Referencing Ephesians 5:8-14 and John 9:1-17, she asked us to ponder how fear and our distorted vision had been blinding us to our ability to see things around us. Now that our eyes have been opened by the presence of COVID-19, we can attempt to hone our attentiveness to what we may have missed in ourselves and in our communities. These new perspectives will give rise to new heights of meaning and vision.
"We are meant to pay attention to legitimate fears, yet they need not be the only lens through which we see and thus, the sole driver of our lives."
~Bishop Mariann Budde
I Was Blind But Now I See
As I listened to Bishop Budde preach her meditative, very moving and thought-provoking sermon, I embraced the challenge to explore. Riveted by her captivating delivery, I immediately began journaling on my smartphone. I started a list of all the things that came to my mind's eye as I assessed how this deadly virus gave me clarity on things I hadn't paid much attention to before. I looked at myself, my own vulnerabilities, as well as the behavior, character, and humanity of others.
Below are 30 revelations I discovered on my journey of introspection and observation during a most surreal time of housebound isolation. After studying my list, I realized they fell loosely within five topical areas:
- Observing Behavior
- Humanity and Compassion
- Spiritual Awakening
I share these personal journal entries with you in hopes that you will participate in the exercise and share some of your revelations in the comments section below. I am, hereby, opening a space for all of us to be vulnerable as we heal from this crisis and gain new perspectives with better clarity.
Isolation Leads to Introspection
- The sun seems so much brighter and feels better than I remember when I haven't been out in a couple days.
- Human beings, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, are all biologically the same when it comes to vulnerability to disease.
- Signs of springtime are popping up in my backyard even as death is happening at alarming rates.
- Life, in all its forms, really does go on.
- The feeling of time passing by swiftly or slowly is all relative.
- The brain must have some type of muscle memory for routine. It's hard for me to function even with a schedule right in front of me, forgetting important stuff.
- My fingertips still shrivel up after a long sit in the bath, when I have no particular place to rush to or to be.
- People don't pay attention to important details about what's going on around them or in the world, when they are consumed by their own existence.
- The ego is an impermeable shield, preventing penetration of reality and common sense.
- People try to divert attention elsewhere, not because they are out of touch, but because they might be afraid or anxious, and in need of distractions.
- Greed is a character trait not necessarily driven by fear, or need, nor depravity; greed is greed.
- There are a lot of sad, angry, hurting, cynical people in the world revealed primarily on social media.
- People still take advantage of situations if they can, even in the midst of a crisis.
- Even with entire communities facing tragedy, human behavior does not change that much - - unless touched directly by said crisis.
Humanity and Compassion
- Like teachers, journalists are one of the most under-appreciated, hardest working groups of public servants in the world.
- Parents really are superheroes.
- People really do have huge hearts and limitless capacities to help each other; this capacity increases exponentially during crises and unfortunately decreases on regular days when routines return.
- Healthcare professionals, particularly physicians, nurses and EMTs, are some of the most selfless human beings on the planet, literally putting their lives on the line to care for and save others. They've elevated the cliché, "I will die for you."
Spiritual Contemplation and Study
- I have more than enough; I have what I need today.
- Self-awareness increases on every level during a crisis.
- I am vulnerable to anxiety which manifests into physical symptoms, even if I seem okay on the surface.
- My rabbit hole of fear is just as present as the next person's; we are all subject to being afraid of that over which we have no control.
- I'm finding solace in this COVID-19 shelter-in-place. I love being in my sweats, taking my time as I work from home, without make-up, not having to figure out what I will wear.
- If I go deep inside and connect with Spirit, I can overcome any outer negativity that blocks me from feeling at peace, no matter what is going on; prayer works.
- I am able to make more sacrifices than I realize.
- We don't take seriously enough that tomorrow is not promised.
- Afternoon bubble baths are quite beautiful. The bright sun shines through the window, hitting and reflecting colors on the bubbles from one angle, then placing shadows on the wall at another.
- My father doesn't listen to me about staying home, not because he doesn't understand the seriousness of COVID-19; it's because at 96, he's not afraid of anything and feels protected by strong faith in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- The notion, (now harsh reality) of dying alone has taken on a whole new meaning with gut-wrenching implications, from diagnosis to death, minus the universal rituals of saying goodbye.
- COVID-19 is a teacher.
"How we live now will be determined in large measure by what we see, what is revealed to us, and what we're willing to face - - eyes wide open."
~Bishop Mariann Budde
New Vision for the World
The impact of the coronavirus on our lives has caused every human being to see through new eyes. This horrible global tragedy has given us a fresh perspective on how we see each other and how we view ourselves. Priorities have shifted. What was deemed important is not so much anymore.
The things we had taken for granted have been elevated to higher levels of significance. We can better distinguish between our wants and our needs. We will now value differently what it means to be in close proximity and physically touch each other.
As your eyes begin to open wider through your own self-examination, see how much of this can transfer to a wider opening of your heart. If we could all maintain the shifts we've experienced during this challenging period in our history, and learn from the hard lessons, the world could truly and literally be a better place.
[Janis Leslie Evans is the Outreach Co-chair at St. George's Episcopal Church, DC]
Bishop Budde's Sermon
© 2020 Janis Leslie Evans