Even the most nomadic of wanderers have been caught off-kilter by the jumbled rhythm of this all-consuming crisis. Previously, our transience was on our terms; now, it is government mandated. The fickle hand of fate comes dressed in a starched blue uniform, short marching us to a future unknown.
In Australia, borders open and close like the mouths of snapdragons or circus sideshow clowns, while international travel comes with a heavy warning, an added price tag and is bookended by fortnights of isolation.
The mobility we took for granted is no longer our right.
The hidden consequences of tiny actions have become explicit, with contact tracing and community outbreaks that inconveniently fail to disseminate between hierarchies or post codes. Rich, poor, clean, unclean... it’s a strange kind of reminder of our joint humanity, which has led to unrest rather than peace. When the air that we breathe, our very life source could be the death of us, an air of suspicion pervades the atmosphere.
So, we find ourselves at this juncture.
We’ve all lived through prior tragedy—I remember in the weeks, months, years following 9/11, that New York became softer, rivulets of compassion flowing through the fractures in the armour New Yorkers don daily, until the reminder of our frail humanity grew dim enough in our remembrance for the world to grow hard again.
The event that brought into sharp contrast our true vulnerability was leveraged for political advantage, frail humanity reinforcing its defences and declaring war on the thing that left it terrified—terror itself. And yet somehow, the people whose faces and beards represented the ones who took the lives of our own were scapegoated, leading to a costly Pyrrhic victory which we still pay the price for today, a war whose fires keep burning.
Will the lessons of yesterday’s crises be heeded today?
Or will it be the same?
I wonder, in the days and years to come, if we will bear in ourselves the extra suspicion or the extra care for our fellow humans that moments like these provide. I wonder if we will remember the paramount importance of health, that no job is worth pouring out our lifeblood for.
I wonder if the unsung heroes will still be celebrated, or if we will return to scrolling celebrations of vapid celebrities. I wonder if we will have that bit of extra grace for those struggling through mental health issues, the understanding that some things, no person is immune to. I wonder if we will remember the rhythms of rest, intentionally weaving into the fabric of our days, time for the feeding of our souls.
I wonder if the deep reflections, the bigger “who am I? And why?” which have resounded through the collective consciousness will continue to echo into our tomorrows. I wonder if we will continue to care for the other others—the ones on the other side of the world, whose plight we’d never have known, had not they been shown on the screens of our phones, whose journey does not affect our own.
Moments like now, where crisis is layered on crisis—Lebanon a prime example—peel back the layers of what it is to be human, to be in need and to be of help. Though desensitised by the avalanche of information, will we be moved with compassion, or move from it?
Excess empathy, compassion, if you will—I think it hardens into indifference if not used in time. I think it desensitises us, like a kidney filling slowly with gallstones. Best to move when moved, rather than waiting for the tug on our heartstrings to pull us in a more convenient direction, more aligned to our comfort.
And when our heartstrings grow weary of the stretching, where do they go to be revived?
Where do we hide when the storms of life take their turns? “In quietness and trust is our salvation,” as the scripture reads, but what do we do when silence fails to bring solace to our muddled minds?
Find me the road where trust, inner stillness, and external catastrophe can peacefully co-exist—the path of the Psalmist who penned the oft-quoted verse that speaks of a table set for feasting in the midst of enemies, a valley which foreshadows death, yet where a cup of abundant life overflows when held high.
That cup, the chalice of victorious sacrifice which overflowed on our behalf, which—when lifted high—draws all men unto itself, is the key.
Grace Mathew is a Press Service International writer from Sydney, who has been writing for Christian Today for many years. Grace holds degrees in International Relations and International Business and works as a consultant.