It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
Charles Dickens wrote this 161 years ago, but it could easily have been plucked from today’s headlines. We are experiencing not only a global pandemic but massive civil unrest; not long ago, it seemed a whole continent was on fire; we are seeing melting polar icecaps, murder hornets, earthquakes, plagues of locusts, etc. At first glance, this seems like the stuff of nightmares (or a really bad B movie!) but you may remember the story of the Taoist farmer whose horse is stolen. When his neighbor says “Oh No! How awful!”, the farmer says “Who knows what is bad or what is good?” When the farmer’s horse escapes and comes back accompanied by a small herd of feral horses, the neighbor exclaims about the farmer’s good fortune, and again the farmer says “Who knows what is bad or what is good?”. When the farmer’s son rides one of the horses, falls off and breaks his leg, again, the neighbor says “Oh no – that is terrible!”. When the army comes by seeking to conscript the able-bodied young men in the village and pass his son by because his leg is broken, again the farmer’s response to his neighbor is “Who knows what is bad or what is good?” The story continues in this manner. How might this story apply to what we are experiencing now? The list of how people are suffering is abundantly clear, but people are stepping up for social justice, people are finding innovative ways to help others, thousands of healthcare people are knowingly putting their lives on the line.
As our lives have come to a standstill, we find ourselves standing in front of a blank canvas. Coronavirus is perhaps the ultimate pattern interrupt. Now we are forced to reexamine our lives, review our choices – our occupation, where we live, how we spend our time, not only what we value most, but perhaps what we miss most and what we are surprised we DON’T miss. We can no longer count on so many things. Perhaps one day soon the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. Is this not the ideal time to ‘defund’ that which doesn’t serve us and to reimagine our lives?
-Submitted anonymously on October 7, 2020