One of my first direct responses to the self isolation and “shelter at home” of the CoVID-19 crisis came as a simple image — a blindfold.
The image grew to a blindfolded figure; unable to see, stretching out a hand into the darkness to tenuously feel their way forward. It’s not actually dark — as an outside observer, we can see the figure perfectly well — but with the blindfold, the person has no way of seeing, understanding or responding to whatever threats (real or imagined), or helps, might be right in front of them.
As I began to work the clay, reflecting on the image and seeing it take shape in front of me, I wondered about our lives in this time. One of the greatest threats we face, aside from the virus itself, is our loss of the sense of being able to see into the future. We have been cut off from our physical world by being “locked down” in our homes. We are cut off from physical contact with our friends and associates by “social distancing”. We can’t see their emotions because of the masks on our faces. We are cut off from our schedules and plans for the future by global uncertainty about the virus, its behavior and attack vectors, or any real time lines for a defense. Our nicely laid out plans for the year all have a big CANCELLED sticker slapped over them.
So, we sit in our homes and fumble our way forward. We reach out over the Internet and try to stay virtually connected with the people who matter to us. We set up a space in our spare bedroom and call it “going to work”. We go outside and cut the grass (again) or fix the flowerbeds, or do that work on the front porch that we’ve been putting off for years, all the while feeling a bit guilty for not being “productive”.
We try to feel around ahead of us, on our hands and knees, hoping we don’t trip over something or fall into a pit.
How do we imagine the changed world when, hopefully, we emerge from this time?
It would be nice to come up with some sort of neat, spiritual insight here, or a cool Scripture verse, or point to how this is strengthening our character, or even giving space for quiet contemplation and inner healing, but when we’re all crawling around with blindfolds on, hoping to keep a safe 6 foot space between us, so many of those reminders seem tone-deaf. Perhaps the best thing is to simply recognize where we are, give space for the frustration and loss, to recognize that the situation really does suck, for others perhaps even more than it does even for ourselves.
And then, perhaps, we will have the space in our thoughts and imagination to remember that we are dust, that our anchor is not in our ability to wrestle the universe into submission, that our identity is not in the things we have accomplished or acquired. Perhaps, we will find a level of peace with ourselves and our situation, based on the sure hope for God’s presence in a future which we still cannot see.