Shutdown Week 7: Unknowing

FeaturedShutdown Week 7: Unknowing

The first change I faced for the Covid 19 shutdown was the suspension of classes and groups for older adults at the Center for Life and Learning (CLL) in my neighborhood church. The cancellation announcement infuriated me. For an entire day, I thought it was the only shutdown announcement, the only group activity suspended.

The media had been continually reporting that people over sixty were more vulnerable to coronovirus than the rest of the population. Shutting us down was our best protection. My wounded ego jumped to the conclusion that we, as a group, would be thought of as weak, defeated and sick, putting a frame around the ageism I struggle to define in myself

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Mammoth Mountain Sky by Sharon Schock Sharonschock.com

 

and in the public square. I stuck myself in a cloud of unknowing.

It was mid-March. I bundled up to walk a long way around to the church for the last event before the shutdown, the CLL yearly Art Show.

How to express my agitation?  Old people were being singled out. Excluded.

That’s when I ran into one of the pastors on his way down the street to the Red Line.

“We’re cancelling services.” He said.

“Huh? How long?”

“Unknown. It’s all going to be livestream. We have to figure out Zoom for other gatherings.”

His worried expression hit me like a ton of bricks. He didn’t crack his normal smile, nor did he put a jokey spin on the situation.

“It’s serious.” He said.

“So, It’s not just old people?”

At the Art Show I gathered with friends and reported the news .

No Sunday services. 

I eavesdropped on other conversations. Eavesdropping has become one of the social distancing casualties I miss the most.

“They say we might have classes on Zoom.”

“What’s Zoom?”

“Some kind of computer conferenceing.”

“I’m not doing that. I’m sick of technology.”

“Me too. I don’t want to learn anything new.”

“Well, it won’t be for long. Maybe a week. Maybe two.”

We’re in the seventh week now.

I fell victim to the fear of the unknown and refused to learn Zoom for about six days. But I longed for the energy of the collective silence in my meditation group. Others did too and meditation became the first Zoom hosted by CLL.

About fifteen of us spend twenty minutes each Monday and Friday sitting in silence in our Hollywood Squares with our eyes closed. Afterwards we each say a few brief words. We know a smattering of particulars about each other.

What could I possibly miss that I can’t do on my own?

In The Cloud of Unknowing, a fourteenth century monk teaches when we know enough and we don’t need to know more, an opening through the clouds to the sun or the moon brings us to an endless, wordless, deeper knowing. Contemplatives call this love.

This is why I yearn to sit in silence with fellow meditators. We know each other through the clouds of our own wordless unknowing. I call this love.

Shutdown Week 5: Masks Unseen

Shutdown Week 5: Masks Unseen

Until the beginning of April, the Center for Disease Control, health departments, doctors, scientists and pundits advised us to wear a mask only if we had symptoms. Then the message changed. We learned there were people with coronavirus who have no symptoms. A cloth face covering is recommended for everyone now to prevent us from giving it to and getting it from each other.

All of a sudden everyone wore a mask. For about ten days. 

On a mid-April Saturday, Henry studied the sudden arrival of daffodils, marking his spot. IMG_1713We’d walked less than a half a block before I breathlessly yanked my homemade mask off. The lightweight cotton had turned into a heat chamber about to asphyxiate me. I wasn’t the only one. Everyone’s mask was askew or nonexistent in the warmer weather. And that was the end of widespread mask use in the neighborhood.

The inconvenience of non-essential work has come upon the privileged. A neighbor can’t get her dishwasher fixed because our building management has deemed it a non-essential repair. I tried to replace a light bulb in the lamp by my reading chair and it broke off, leaving the guts screwed in place and me holding the glass bulb. The maintenance man said “no”.  Even though I played the old lady card, it’s not essential that my aging eyes have light to read. “Watch TV,” he said.

We’re not exactly on Cormac McCarthy’s Road, or settling into deprivation. But ordering groceries online has taken a turn. There are no delivery times available for the old stand-bys. I’m told to “check back later.” The store with the only coffee beans I like isn’t accepting online orders “at this time”. “Check back later” has taken up residence on my computer screen.

My computer screen is where I go to church. It’s livestreamed. Only it’s not exactly live because the preacher last Sunday admitted to recording the sermon. When the artificial worship service came into view the livestream accentuated all the elements of church I despise–the dead symbols, rituals, robes. And then the preacher delivered a walloping good sermon about “thriving in belief”. 

“For now, caring for our neighbor by sheltering in place is believing in the unseen.” he said. 

That’s me. You’re staying home for me. And I you. I believe this unseen selflessness will protect me, and you.

Do I like this virtue being forced on me? Not one bit. I’d rather make my own choice. I know what those protesters are up to. This is America. The government can’t tell us to stay home. It’s the Screwtape Letters in action. The master devil is telling his student to tempt us into saying God is on our side while tricking us into believing only in ourselves. If Granny gets sick and dies, it’s not because we gathered together in church, at a barbecue or a cocktail party. It’s God’s will. 

That’s me, too. Belief in the unseen reveals my secret selfishness and depravity. And it allows me to self-correct, sight unseen, to receive the virtue. I don’t know how that works. I simply thrive in the belief.