Before we were grounded, I used to meet up with a couple of other guys every Monday morning early, to spend an hour praying together. We could have continued that digitally but it was not something I wanted to do and for me it came to a natural end. But, while it lasted, it was special and the perfect start to the working week. Before we prayed, we would chat about things that were on our mind, things across the world, events in the news, local situations as well as our own personal concerns and worries. It takes time to build up a level of trust but when that trust is won it is astonishing how easy it is to share often quite intimate things. Sometime last year, when asked what was on my mind, I spoke about a deep unease I had, a sense of foreboding and premonition that something big was coming that would shake us to the core, that would undermine all the things we relied on, the things we felt secure about and we were just not prepared for it. When it came to Coronavirus, one of the guys reminded me of that morning and said “Remember what you said? …Well this is it”. The trouble is I am not convinced that “This is it” nor do I think that when the virus has past, that the crisis will be over. It has probably just begun and I find I “can’t shake this feeling of doom”.The line is from Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Age of miracles”
“We can fly through space with the greatest of ease
We can land in the dust of the moon
We can transform our lives with the tap of a key
Still we can’t shake this feeling of doom”
It is not of course, about me. In many ways this period suits me to the ground. I like staying at home and have no particular desire strange places to see. I like my own space and my own time to plan out my day. I like pluttering about doing small jobs, tidying up, cleaning, the odd sketch, working away on tunes on the guitar, learning Arabic, trying to make something creative with the left over vegetables in the cooler tray, sitting on the bench reading till the sun slips over the roofs and writing the odd letter. I can hardly complain. My depravations: not being able to work, to see my family, to play football, to go for a swim, to join in worship or share with my church family, except in two-dimensional, pixelated boxes, are nothing. Compared to what others have to suffer it doesn’t register on the scale.
No, it is not about me. And it is not about the worry over my children, my grandchildren or my family and those I Iove and care for. It is not worry over what they may have to face in a future unlike the one I have known. They will have the resources to survive and prosper, of that I am sure. They will know better than me. I have entrusted them into God’s care and know they are secure in his hands. I have complete peace about it.
No, it is the sense that you can see a terrible disaster unfolding before your eyes and you watch helpless and unable to do anything about it. And that terrible disaster is not the dreaded virus itself but what will come from the fear and suspicion that has been sown and the panicked suspension of the very lubrication that makes our society function. When an engine has ceased up for lack of oil it is no easy matter to get it to turn again, as our leaders are finding out. Once you sow fears in the population they grow and become extraordinarily difficult to root out. Once you tell people to stay at home to save lives it’s hard to turn round and tell them to get back to work, this time to save them from starving.
Now, I know that this extraordinary measure is only meant to be a temporary one, but temporary has a nasty habit of lasting a long time. It has already been extended twice beyond the original timescale and this gives me the jitters. It is likely to be extended again. Now it is over the anxiety of a second peak, but it could be for a third or a fourth. My confidence in those running the show, which was already pretty shaky, has taken a severe battering, especially when we discover that some clearly didn’t even believe in the anti-social policy, they were promoting, themselves. I think we are in danger of killing something it might be impossible to resuscitate. In Joni Mitchell’s words, “We won’t know what we’ve lost till it’s gone”. Without realising it, it could be gone with the wind.
That is what brings me the feeling of doom, that I cannot shake. But it is a feeling and it is not what I know. What I know is hope. A hope not in politicians, nor national institutions, nor in the church, nor in people nor in humanity itself, but in God. And that’s what keeps me sane.