This article is not about The Virus.
It is about what happens when enough people experience something so significant that what passes for our ‘normal life’ cannot cope any longer. In the face of a life-threatening enemy, spread rapidly via a web of global trade and travel, the way we have lived has crumbled. It’s as if we have had to face that, some-where along the way, we have - as a society and groups of societies - taken a very wrong turn. At the quickening of the Industrial Revolution, in this green and pleasant land, William Wordsworth saw it coming:
‘Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!…for this, for everything, we are out of tune.’1
Wordsworth’s good friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge - born in Devon - also wrote of the harder emotions experienced by many in our recent lockdown days. No stranger to depression, he wrote of ‘a grief without a pang, void, dark and drear, A stifled, drowsy unimpassioned grief, Which finds no natural outlet, no relief.’2 Yet, out of such wilderness times something has stirred. It is as if our shared experience of anxiety, separation and upheaval these past months has woken us up (which is what the word ‘repent!’ really means) to the truth that:
- We are not, after all, in control;
- We are a society where, although equally precious, the poor and the vulnerable suffer the most;
- We all need time to talk; time to laugh and eat and sing together (not necessarily at the same time);
- We all need time to lament and grieve, time to cry; by ourselves and with others;
- We all need to find time to connect with the natural world around us;
- We all need to accept ourselves as we are - without endless distraction, or criticising other people, or keeping up appearances - to be able to be alone; and
- We all need to express gratitude, whether clapping NHS employees and other key workers, or thanking the Divine Artist for the sheer breath-taking beauty of Creation from the top of a tor.
No, this article is not about The Virus. It is about the re-awakening of the human spirit, which, as these poets well knew, flows from the Holy Spirit. As we begin again this Summer, may you know the healing, the challenge and the grace of this Spirit in which we can be fully alive. Together.
1 ‘The World is too much with us’ (c1802)
2 ‘Dejection: An Ode’ (1802)