“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.” — Kitty O’Meara
Fragment of a poem by Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM
March 13th 2020
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
“It has become necessary for collective humanity to gain a more conscious awareness of the psychological fact that we’re all in this together and that we are all in uncharted territory. That is what the climate crisis says to us and the coronavirus may be saying in its own sad way: that we all affect each other and that one person can actually affect everyone else.” — Michael Meade
We have an unexpected chance to slow down now, to create and pay attention to what matters. So, what does matter? I say it’s paying attention to the beauties around us and inside us. It’s in letting go of the urgent demands of the world in favor of contemplation, creativity and quiet attention to everything. We have a lot to learn, because we hardly notice the life inside us. There’s a lot going on inside us.
We have created a noisy world that reflects our cacophonous inner life. That’s why the simple beauties like the birds singing escapes us. Our preoccupation with getting ahead has turned us into mechanical humans deprived of wonder.
We find ourselves now in an enforced time-out. This quiet time, however long it lasts, can feed our soul, a soul which has been starved of the poetry of life. As we decompress, we may discover an unsuspected depth where we are connected to nature. We may find ourselves to be part of a giant, beautiful web of life. We may realize in a flash that we are not alone, that there are currents and forces we are inextricably connected to.
We are swimming in a stream of life. This giant current has an immense force and direction. We contribute to that whether we intend to or not, in positive and negative ways. You can’t be alive and opt out of this field of energy. It is life itself.
If you proceed with a clear mind and heart, you will benefit the whole. If you confine yourself to your little life and its details, accumulating possessions and fortifying yourself against a world you imagine as cruel and menacing, you help build the world you imagine. How we think has more power than we can imagine.
As an artist, I want to be part of building a kind world. I want to produce beauty any way I can. Even that seems like a pipe dream, but it’s the only project I’m interested in. Art, ideas, words and connections are the paint and brushes of this huge art project that describes my life.
I have created both good and bad on my journey. I’m no different from any other human being. I’ve made the full complement of mistakes in living, simply because I couldn’t see myself. At this late stage, I’m essentially still the same person, still trying to contribute to a better world by engaging my truest self. I think I’m a little better version of myself, but there’s no finish line to personal growth.
We find ourselves at a time when we will all be asked to at least not harm the world. I think this time of letting go of our busyness can be extremely helpful. Maybe we can each create some kind of beauty out of who we are. This time ahead of us, while the world is shifting to a different paradigm, is a good time to take stock and assess who we are.
This could be a much needed time of growth for those of us who are willing to recognize the opportunity.
- Anima Fire is my publication