“The images of empty public spaces around the world are shocking outward signs that reflect the interior emptiness so many feel right now. Millions are being deprived of the chance to work, socialize and support one another in person. . . .Yet the void created by this crisis may be an unexpected gift. This emptiness presents to us a mystical and uncluttered view of life as we have been living it until a few weeks ago. . . . Each day, it becomes more apparent that this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to consider a fundamental question about the spirit and morality of our way of living: Having emptied ourselves, what do we really want to fill our world with once it is time to rebuild?
It is notable that the most dangerous places in America right now are the ones filled with people we are refusing the right of empty space. . . . the virus is endangering prisoners and prison workers. The 34,000 people held in ICE detention centers are ‘sitting ducks’ for infection . . . workers in dozens of Amazon warehouses rushing to fulfill the orders of millions of quarantined Americans have tested positive for the virus, yet the company has given them no viable option to stay at home. . . . What does it say about our economy that it depends on the labor of people whose lives we are willing to sacrifice? Do we want to continue participating in an exhausting economic system that crumbles the instant it is taken out of perpetual motion? And what is the virtue of a desire for constant accumulation of wealth and goods, especially when they come at the cost of collective welfare and equality? These are . . . spiritual concerns that come into view with sharp clarity in the emptiness around them.
If there is anything the collective spiritual insight of millenniums can teach us right now, it is that in addition to the horrors of this current state of emptiness, there is also life to be discovered in this moment. . . . This is a powerful moment in human history in which we can examine, individually and collectively, the unnecessary decadence and cruelty of our contemporary society that we have accepted without sufficient scrutiny. . . . Sitting with these questions now will determine what we are willing to accept once this crisis is over. Having tasted a simpler life, perhaps we will shift our values and patterns. Having seen the importance of community, maybe we will invest more in the well-being of the collective and not just the individual. Having seen the suffering of others anew, we may find it impossible to ignore it in the future. . . . Once the world opens back up, we can choose to fill it with the wisdom and insight gained from these weeks—or allow it to be filled with horrors that are even worse than what we had before. The choice will be ours.” Steven Paulikas
” . . . life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Jesus in Luke 12:15b NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Has your life become “uncluttered”–perhaps through much painful loss?
- Can you think of yourself as in a time between two “normals”–pre-pandemic and post-pandemic? . . . a time for scrutiny of self and society?
- Can you “sit with” some of the questions the author raises? Can you imagine a much better new normal? . . . pray for that? . . . determine to contribute to that? What might that mean?
Abba, the losses are profound. May all this painful loss not be in vain.
For More: The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality Into Your Daily Life by John Michael Talbot