“At any time, you can ask yourself: at which threshold am I now?… At this time in my life, what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter?”
When I was a professor, I always stayed one move ahead of my students. Before an essay was due, the assignment was ready and last essay returned. Even though my students never wrote their essays two weeks in advance, I wanted them to have an advantage: to know both what was coming and their past performance. This is how I managed my life in the midst of overwhelm: a two-career marriage with children, pets, and a house. And an extended family in another state. And the expectation to publish as well as teach. And living as a supportive colleague, a good neighbor, a responsible citizen. And all the usual existential questions of life, all the usual fears.
Really, I was many moves ahead of my students. I had planned the whole course, after all. But I wanted to think that we were in the game together. That we could all win it, if we just played together, me just one move ahead.
In this time, I am no moves ahead of the people I serve. I am self-distanced and self-isolated, venturing out only for essentials and minimizing those trips to protect myself and my neighbors. I miss my adult children. I fear for my aged parents and in-laws. I don’t know what’s coming next.
Yet I am trying to serve the holy, with the congregation who called me as their own, with people I see as mine as I am theirs. I am learning to do a high-touch job in a no-touch environment; trying to make my empathy palpable to folx who are figuring out which part of a screen to look at while on a Zoom call; trying to recognize another person’s emotions when we’re not in the same room, when the quality of video and sound equipment pixelates eyes and distorts voices, when trembling hands are not even in my field of vision, though I feel the tremble of my own.
“Game” is no longer the proper metaphor to guide my thoughts and actions. We are—all of us—in liminal space, at a threshold confronting immediacy, shrouded in fog. May we move together to welcome the unknown.
Spirit of Life and Love, we realize that our particular vulnerability in this time is new for all of us, though vulnerability has always been the norm for too many of us. Our hands may not touch, so may our hearts vibrate with the clarity of reason and the vitality of compassion, sensing our interdependence now and in all times.
Photo copyright Joakim Honkasalo CC0 1.0