This spring is an unusual one, in the midst of a pandemic. It is truly a time and place of death and rebirth, more literally than usual. Within my friends circle – marriages are ending, babies have been born and cloistered from their families, old people are dying unattended if not unmourned. Many people’s employment is ending or at the very least being radically transformed.
In BC where I live, the government, who have done an excellent job, compared with many parts of the world, is increasingly being critizized for not getting the pandemic over already. We have vaccines, and if we just shut everything down completely – submitted to the slow death of all our social connections and institutions more quickly – we could get it over with. It makes sense. When you are going through hell, keep on going.
However, I am mindful that the voices I hear saying this are also the most privileged – they are people who are retired or employed at jobs that are unaffected, or they are rich. I am not hearing the restaurant workers, or grocery store workers or anyone who might lose their job and home say that the lockdown should be complete and brutal in order to clear the infection. Perhaps the lockdown is already complete and brutal for them.
I also see my friends who are at the highest levels of caution, who almost never leave their house, and certainly never put themselves indoors or outdoors in the presence of another person within 6 feet, with or without a mask. They are desperately lonely, and are already in the most severe form of lockdown.
Death and rebirth comes to us all, at some point in our life. For some of us, it comes many times. I’ve learned to recognize it. I have experienced rebirth in this pandemic – desperate loneliness and some strands of deep connection – I’ve connected at deeper levels with one of my brothers, my best friend, my ex-wife and one or two other friends, while being lonely almost every single day. I have finally learned to play the piano, something that has been a constant goal in my life for decades. I have begun writing music that feels qualitatively different to me.
My relationship with the gods has changed and at the same time not changed – while I would like to say I have spent this ascetic time of isolation and contemplation in deepening prayer, it is no deeper or shallower – I am walking with the gods, and I am grappling with them and with my purpose in the world as steadily and well, religiously, as I always do. The God continues to challenge me daily to tend to my wild physical self, and every physical self-care thing I do ought to be as much devotion to Him as to my own being. Perhaps those two are not as separate as I sometimes think – surely the life force is in me and I him at all times. There is a chant that comes to mind “I am the Goddess, I am the Mother, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”, but at the same time, I feel that I am the God, I am the wild life within me, I am whole and holy and life flows through me.
The Goddess seems to challenge me to broaden my experience of Love beyond the sexual and romantic, while honing my attention there to love that can support the weight of a full and rich life with another person. “You fill up my senses, like night in the forest, like a mountain in springtime, like a walk in the rain”. For me, it seems I must reverse those lyrics to ‘the forest, the mountain, the spring, the movement of my body, the feel of the rain must fill my senses like a lover’, for I have no lover. I think this is right, and is a way to expand those same senses to take in more and more.
Spring and Rebirth – blessed be. May all be well.