I’ve titled this blog entry from inspiration by the famous poem, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas. In said poem, Thomas is seemingly reflecting upon life and death. About how the good and wise and wild among us – even though understanding death/darkness is something inevitable as a fact of life – do not merely fade away in to it, but rather, leave their mark somehow by “raging against the dying of the light”.
Right now it seems like there is a two headed coin spinning, in the mix of mediums that is the global and social media speaking of the Covid-19 pandemic. On the one side we have bad news, the scary news, the troubling news, the disheartening news, the fearful news – whatever facts and fictions are tied up in all of that is beside the point. On the flip side we have good news, the attempts to shine some light at an otherwise dark experience haunting humanity at this time, those who are trying to stay positive and spread hope, to share humor just to lighten the mood or brighten someone’s day, or in the very least distract themselves – whatever facts and fictions are wrapped up in all of it is, again, beside the point. The “point” that I’m referring to is that this metaphorical coin is still spinning, and we don’t know where all or how its going to land. But we need to recognize we do have a say in the matter.
Any moment in time, in history, is an opportunity for change, because in truth nothing ever stays the same. But some incidences, historically speaking, become benchmarks for heralding change. We citizens, we humans of society and peoples of the earth, we make our history. So I feel compelled to argue the point that this experience, the world over, is presenting us with a chance to really delve deep into not only contemplating, but admitting to, the kind of lives we want to lead, the kind of civilization we must build for our future to be resilient and sustainable. After this global scale experience, nothing will be quite the same as before – (though there will no doubt be elements fighting for it to be, and some wishing that it was). Rather than fight the constant current of change, we should try to become clear and ready to stand firm in what we hope to achieve within it – this is imperative, so that we do not just simply get washed away with current.
For generations we have uselessly built and fed into mentalities of war, of domination, of exploitation, and an unstoppable march for what we deem “progress” (in a sense, not unlike a virus) – of which is ultimately unsustainable. We write literature of conspiracies. We become obsessed with “zombies” in entertainment – with post apocalyptic themes increasingly capturing the imagination. Some people make jokes about who they would want in their “squad” when civilization collapses, others consider the exact same thought but with all joking aside.
Ironically, the largest global conspiracy yet known to sweep the public masses during these frightening, confusing, challenging, uncertain times, is the hoarding and plundering of toilet paper (a sort of strange symbolism in a way – craving and coveting something that is a soft luxury with which we wipe up our messes). Though for as much as there is truly bad and sad news pouring in across the world, due to the many casualties of this virulent virus, as well as poor preparedness and/or mismanagement on the part of governments and corporate powers – we also see courage, and hope, and every-day people pitching in to help. We see the power of localization – as many individuals, local officials, and states look for ways to do their part to make a difference, to be of service, for the betterment and survival of the species.
Herein we catch sight of a silver lining, the glimmer of what could be. That even despite wars and other infighting, humans have always been communal creatures – that is, we are an animal that has survived and gotten to where we are today ultimately because of community, because of working, learning, and growing together! We are reaching a point, with such a globally connected modern world, that we are no longer isolated tribes, cultures, countries, and pockets of micro-communities, and we can see that throwing any stones now can have global repercussions.
This thought crosses the mind: Perhaps it can be a blessing in disguise? That this experience which has potential to actually teach us, and help us better our infrastructures and planning and preparedness for the future, did not have to be birthed out of the aftermath of something as terrible as another human-on-human world war? Rather it comes from a human-standing-with-human effort to weather this “storm”, which is birthed of nature, and part of the natural processes of life and death here on this earth. Hopefully we look and see a common humanity, as we are each susceptible to the tolls this virus can take. As we are no less a part of the wider natural world.
When we are looking at our facebook news feed, youtube, instagram, (and wherever else we are witnessing “news” of what is going on day by day, and how we are each finding our ways to get through it), we see so much of people just trying to get by. Of course all we are generally ever trying to do is to get by, but now we all feel it more profoundly, now we can really see it in one another’s faces and hear it in our voices. Trying to “get by” now seems to take on a different meaning and emphasis. Thankfully, instead of mass violence, coups, protests, mutiny, militias, zombies, pitchforks and the like, proving to be some sort of dominant modus operandi in our species, instead many people are obliging themselves to acts of thoughtfulness and care. Gentle acts. Quiet acts. Even intentionally silly acts. It turns out that the quintessential human – in this big, giant, messy, global family we are all part of – apparently mostly wants to knit, bake, garden, write, teach, call and check on granny, sing a song etc… and humbly keep a roof over their head, food on their table, have a safe space for their loved ones, and just hopes to receive decent, fair, life-saving medical care should the need arise. These are basic acts of survival in their own right, as well as acts of gentleness, of creativity, of craft, of expression, of belonging and purpose, of family and community. It shouldn’t be surprising, and it is certainly not wrong, to say this is who we are. These hopes are nothing that should be so difficult to ask, nor to expect or maintain.
The world we have built for ourselves is in many ways richer in resources, capital, technology and potential than it has ever been. What we are learning now is where the limitations of various systems and ways of operating are, and where it has gotten us (or failed to get us) – and to that we should indeed “rage, rage against the dying of the light”, as Mr. Thomas implores. Because what kind of world is it for anyone, really, if our greatest expectation or aspiration for the future we can imagine is a dark, dreary, dirty, dreadful, unjust and merciless place? The future is not written in stone. The “unknown” nature of it doesn’t automatically mean it must be a bad and terrible place. Through this great time of pause, and patience – as we work our way through coming out the other side from panic and pandemic – we should look to see what doors have now presented themselves as opportunities to consider walking through to go gently into that new day.