Near the end of the Broadway show Hamilton’s first act, as the colonists are embracing their victory, the cast sings the refrain that “the world has turned upside down”. And, if I recall, soon after this, King George struts on stage to remind the victors that the war part was easy, it is the governing that is hard. How many of us, now into the fifth month of Corona-virus sheltering, have not gazed off into the sky or remarked to a friend that the world truly has turned upside down. It often does seem that we have fallen and cannot get up. We have no life-saving button to push, this bad movie is really true.
Now if you expect some brilliant insight on how to succeed in making sense out of all of this, well, you will be disappointed. I mean, you can find those “tips” all over the inter-net. They are all nice, have truth in them, and maybe can help you make it through a day or two. In the end, however, as with most things, we have to figure this out for ourself. We all do need to admit that we are living with an increased sense of anxiety. I mean, the media messaging continues to let us Boomers know that we are in serious danger of death if we venture too far from our comfort zone, go unmasked, or forget to wash and sanitize. We are beginning to see the mental health impact of our current state and the “post pandemic stress syndrome” will find its way in to the medical lexicon, if it hasn’t already done so. Add to that post-pandemic syndrome the impact of isolation and deferred/displaced grief that so many are experiencing and we have a recipe for years of an angst based society. It is going to take enlightened leadership to guide us out of this “upside down” world.
There are no easy anwers to all of this. Our generation, now between our mid 50s and 70’s remains vulnerable. We have re-connected with certain basics; the primacy of home and family and friends and the power and necessity of community; be it in person or vritual. I have no doubt that the mass of scientific engagement now underway will produce something for us, but we need patience and faith in their experience. We have learned that all the social division that we live with–race, religion, etc, have been artificially created for political and econimic reasons. The virus does not discriminate, why do we?. We have learned that there is a huge economic an social disparity in the country and that many, for a long time, have chosen to ignore it or exploit it for political purposes. We have learned all of this in stark terms of life and death. Our current situation has taught us all of this. Can we take these lessons forward? Will this Independence Day season be a real beginning of a new social consciousness? Will these last few months–and all that has taken place–be for us a new beginning? When the sheltering in place era ends (and it will) can we remember these lessons so that all members of society can shelter in peace; or a year later will we have retreated back in to what was, forgetting the “what can be”? Our tradition reminds us that we are not required to save the world , just save our particular part of it. Will our legacy be justice and equality or retreat? That king was right, you know, it is the governing that is hard. not only of a country, but of each and every one of us.
Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.
Rabbi Richard F Address