PROLOGUE: “Most people are playing nice right now managing this virus, the wreckage, pain and anger it will leave behind requires solidarity and healing.” New York Times, 4/20/2020“. . . a Quaker is a friend who helps you find your own way home: home within yourself and home within the world as you leave yourself and live courageous- courageously into an unknown, beautiful, hurting world.” Paul Blankenship.
Good morning. I have asked for the opportunity to speak to you today, to address recent concerns… those that linger over COVID-19, a virus that immediately affects life and death, and induces worries about our longevity. My approach is from a Shakespearian perspective considering the questions: Who are we; why are we; what are we? That is to address feelings of confusion and helplessness, believing “from its’ darkest hours” -for democracy dies in darkness- to suggest our nation will emerge stronger, more resilient, as a triumph of courage. Hopefully in this regard the glue that holds us together is love.
I address you as an 84-year old who has lived through wars, abhorrent social transitions, blessings and opportunities, at times events violent and unappreciated.
Optimism is the theme I offer you today. It is not a narrative of fear, but one of hope. However, the year 2020 will be remembered as a profound period bouncing between life and death. I hold as a biological prospect that the purpose of life is to survive, which seems a reasonable goal in face of calamity!
As for purpose –let me add salvation is a personal matter, a journey more inherent– the individual process we share as members of a Quaker society.
A contemporary aspect of being an American, in a democracy, is to suggest we are presently in a war on truth. Please do not allow recent events to silence your voice or weaken your resolve. If you find yourself confused by divisive rhetoric to explain misfortune, now is a good time to think not so much of our everyday life, but of the welfare of our children and their children, thriving in future days.
We need to find within ourselves the strength and hope to recall and focus on our inheritance as Americans. What you think and how you vote in the November election is critical. Vote your conscience for what you believe is the best path for the future of our nation. Your vote is your business, but I warn you to step beyond the present polemic bluster to understand we are at a critical point in our history, marred by propaganda and misinformation. This is a good time to look in, but in these critical times… watch out!
As to where we are right now: While the corona virus pandemic is affecting us all differently depending on how we think, considering financial stability and basic health, I include as a pivotal curiosity one universal to consider… that is the difficulty of finding toilet paper. Recall the symptoms of COVID-19 are primarily respiratory.
Consider this trend: “Freudian, being tied to a need, obsessive compulsive tendencies, which get triggered when people feel threatened.” Add to this an economic crisis, the stock market a roller coaster. I am advised not to let fear dictate our actions.
Thousands of Americans are dying in recent months. People are worried about their safety and that of their families, as well jobs and opportunity. Questions abound about how the crisis got to this point? Issues that will generate an indelible memory in our conscious thought.
At the same time fissures have surfaced as dystopian national divisions: between those taking social-distancing measures seriously and those who view them as resulting from government overreach, between those who would support a prolonged economic shutdown and those who would be willing to trade additional casualties for a faster return to normalcy.
No matter your view, or sub rosa Faustian deals, we’re going through a public health crisis. I assert this is not a time for academics, the lesson is that reality is what happens! Therefore, what are you going to do about it in an era of deep uncertainty, diverging policy and raging disinformation?
I offer hope: “During a crisis, heroes come to the forefront because many of our basic human needs are threatened, including our need for certainty, meaning and purpose, self-esteem, and sense of belonging with others,” so notes Elaine Kinsella, a psychology professor at the University of Limerick in Ireland.
Be a hero for the sake of yourself and your family, and the future of our nation. Your time is now!
Be brave, stand tall, not afraid and together we prosper. This is a time for tears, for insight, for strength, this is our time, and we have the obligation to embrace our faith and sustain confidence in our future.
Pray for answers, it’s a given… questions abound!
A SECOND THOUGHT:
A few years back I toured performing Walt Whitman’s work, to hear America Singing, and from this naive experience I learned the country seemed out-of-tune. I included an epilogue, a poem written as a statement of confidence in our future as a nation: to mirror the best, not exacerbate the worst in us! It’s my hope to humanize, not politicize our state of mind.
I hold you in my heart the nation is you.
BLESSED THESE EYES
Blessed these eyes plainly overexposed, as a country in disbelief given doubts for tomorrow;
I’d like to pass float the eternal believing in you . . . you… and you;
To embrace in kindness, all that life offers to capture in place this armor, a conviction;My tears are for you and to each a caution as we wallow in tides of progress;
To invite the change and think of many spirits, as a passing celebration that bonds the day-to-night;
Your blessings are you each breath a guardian for healing wounds this voice an intimate touch. 7/11/13 Eugene, Oregon
This message was given by Walter Simon to Spokane Friends Church during Meeting for Worship via Zoom on May 10, 2020.