Some random reflections on the changes and challenges of the time we're living through:
- Many have rightly pointed to the mental suffering endured by so many during the pandemic. Those who are anxious, lonely or depressed may find their distress heightened, with no obvious sign of relief - though some have suggested that, if you normally struggle with anxiety, you may be better adapted than most to cope with a situation that makes us all anxious. Another issue is the psychological toll on those who have taken the most demanding roles - doctors, nurses, carers. When the crisis has passed, how much support will they need to rebuild their mental strength and confidence? And will our mental health services, notoriously under-resourced before this crisis, be geared up to repair the health of the healthcare workers to whom we owe so much?
- Coming at mental (and spiritual) health from another angle: our time in lockdown has forced many of us to adapt to a different pace of life, in ways that may prove to be beneficial in the long term. Grief counsellor and author Julia Samuel says, "One thing I sense is that many people are questioning how they lived before. The badge of busyness, for instance, has to a degree lost its lustre. Being busy was somehow being important, but maybe people have realised that busyness is essentially an anaesthetic to feeling." To translate that last sentence into the language of faith: if your self-worth depends on being busy, you will be avoiding the possibility of a deeper relationship with God. Can we recognise the benefits of being slower, and keep them?
- We all know that life will never be the same as it was before. And we sense the possibilities offered by this time of global trauma to re-set, to do things differently, to make changes that enable justice and health for the poor and for the earth itself. Novelist Arundhati Roy describes the pandemic as "a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it." You might find "fight for it" too strong, but when we stand for goodness and truth against evil and falsehood, that's what we're doing. The spiritual fight against evil, in which we enrol those who are baptised, takes place in the decisions we make about how the world will be. We know this, but so often we feel disempowered. Could this be the time when ordinary people everywhere refuse to let the future be dictated by those whose only purpose is to cling to their own wealth and power? I hope so, and I pray for change.