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 figure — blindfolded, unable to see, stretching out a hand into the darkness to tenuously feel their way forward. The darkness didn’t exist on its own (as the outside observer, we can see the figure perfectly well), but the fact of the blindfold meant that the person had no way of seeing, understanding or responding to whatever threats, 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 the nature of our lives in this time. One of the greatest threats we face, aside from the virus itself, is our loss of any sense of being able to see into the future. We are cut off from our physical world by being “locked down” in our homes. We are cut off from physical contact with the people we are accustomed to having around us by “social distancing”. We are cut off from our schedules and plans for the future by a global lack of understanding of the virus, its behavior and attack vectors, or any real time lines for a defense against its destruction. Our nicely laid out plans for the summer, or basically the rest of this year, have all been slapped with a big CANCELLED sticker over them.
So, we sit in our homes and fumble ahead of us. We try to reach out over the Internet and virtually connect with the people who matter to us. We set up a work 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 just 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.
We try to imagine how the world will be changed when, hopefully, we emerge from this time.
It would be nice if I could give 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 together with blindfolds on, hoping to keep a safe 6 foot space between us, so many of those reminders fall on… deaf ears. Perhaps the best thing to do, at least in the beginning, is to simply recognize where we are, to give space for the frustration and loss, to recognize that the situation really does suck, for others far more than perhaps it does even for ourselves.
And then, perhaps we will have the space in our mind 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. And then, perhaps, we will be able to be at peace with ourselves and our situation, with a sure hope for the future which we still cannot see.