Ours is the only species that will create, watch, and calculate, its own demise on this planet. Our craving for merchandise that buttresses our low self-esteem or is used as a form of anesthesia; has heated our planet. So stuff it happening. To bees. To ice. To meat. To oceans. To humans. Suddenly churches and steeples, candles and choirs, inquisitions and ecclesial courts seem rather put into perspective.
The millions of species we kill off each year through our pathological fetish for shopping, owning, eating and using more than we need – those species are unaware of their demise. But we humans are seeing changes in our planet and its courses – sending hints that a price will be paid for the Judeo-Christian idea that the planet was given to us to use up and to dominate for our pleasure.
Were I the Spiritual Director of the planet, and were the planet to ask me, over a cup to tea, for advice about its illnesses and distress; I would recommend the annihilation of the one species causing the distress. It’s as simple as that. Perhaps that has begun. I may not like it, but I cannot disagree
People all over the world are praying. They don’t want to die or even to suffer a fever or a cough. So many pray. In Christian circles, there is this term that I find relentlessly fascinating. It is “magical thinking.” It is the one term – the ideology – that so firmly galvanizes the atheist and agnostic population of the world. What younger generations seem unwilling to accept is “magical thinking;” and it is sending them from liturgies in our churches to picnics in our forests. We older ones can have a tantrum about that, but I suggest we conserve our energy. This reluctance of younger generations to believe so many of the core creedal beliefs of our churches is profoundly upsetting to we older generations that quite like the paternalistic idea of “Daddy” protecting or rescuing us.
Christians believe that God loves the world, sure, but loves Christians especially. If a Muslim gets better after the flu they were “lucky.” But if a Christian “gets better after the flu” they are “healed” or “blessed” or “saved in answer of our prayers.” Hmm.
Our modern Halloween term “hocus pocus,” which we like to think of as the Disney spell cast by witches over cauldrons, was actually drawn from the church’s Latin liturgy. It came from the Eucharist phrase “Hoc est enim corpus meum” when the priest says “This is my body.” It was the first daring mocking. The early crack in the foundation of the flying buttress. The smoldering wire in the medieval attic of Notre Dame.
Recently a preposterously Christian friend came to tea and sat in this chair, beside me, to discuss life. He kept glancing at the wand I keep in a rose-wood stand on a table next to my chair and by my mug. His glances were furtive. Anxious. His brows furrowed. He crossed limbs until he ran out of them.
I suppressed a giggle.
The wand sits near me much the way the icons do. A visual reminder. A splash of color. A prompt. A window to a deeper truth. One cannot see it in this image of my living room above, but if one were to get very close to the wand’s handle, one would see that it is a glass marble of purples, greens, and blues, the colors of this island. And floating above those colors is a fleck of silver mica that so beautifully catches light. It reminds me not to ask God “why.”
Much like generations younger than mine, my willingness to believe in a god of magic is waning in favor of simply letting life unfold. Do prayers work? Yes. It seems some higher power is feeling and gathering our planetary longings spoken in different religions and in none. The long arc of time is marinating in them. But not because an old man in the sky grants wishes to “good people” and sends boils onto the skin of “bad people.” Labels like “good and bad” tend to equate to “my tribe” and “that very other tribe.” So no, I am not asking God to stop the Corona Virus since it was within God’s power to release it. And it was released. I am rather, more curious about what the planet’s humans will learn from this. If they can. That we live on a lit, spherical, shimmering island in a universe. That we are all one. Not we, humans. We, the life. We the human. We the dandelion. Life. We the whale. We the stone.
As I write and you read these words, one can feel old Mrs. Havisham in her corseted grey frock and fox stole wrinkle her theological nose in the back pew as if she just smelled a fart. One can hear the papers of canon lawyers rustling and pens, scratching on parchment the orders of heresy or some other trumped-up charge.
And I suppose that is precisely my point. We let them. We simply let them. We sit next to an icon and we sit next to a wand and we sit next to a friend, and we drink our tea. We enjoy the present moment, for that is all we have and indeed all we may ever have. And if we are suffering, we wait patiently for a different present-moment with the human hope that some future present moment will be more peaceful because one was, once. Peaceful, that is.
What is killing us is not the virus. What is killing us is the fear. What will save us is not a magical god. What will save us is the willingness to let go of the endless mental fight with what simply is. Only then will peace be our lot in life.
We will die. Grab neither the wand, nor the icon. Grab neither the chalice nor the blood-soaked cross. Grab the cup of tea and choose internal peace. Peace is a choice. The virus is not in your control. Nor is whether or not you catch it. What is in your control and mine, is that choice to stop the mental nattering and enjoy this tea, and this biscuit and this sunlight on this one day. Because worrying about the virus will kill your day even if the virus does not kill your body.