Redeeming the Time
How strange: this time of COVID-19 in which we love our neighbors by keeping our distance. We show our care for “the widows and orphans” among us—the biblical paragons of vulnerability—by giving everyone room. It’s not an accident that art finds us in these moments, or that we find art.
Each week as part of our series “Redeeming the Time,” we will publish original essays, poems, and works from our editors and editorial advisors that speak to our current moment.
Once upon a time I thought belonging just happened, was angry or ashamed when I couldn’t experience it. But togetherness happens with practice and intention. It takes everything: pain, grief, rage, as well as my good intentions. This is even more evident now: though physically distanced from my church, I feel less alone in the body of Christ than I ever have before.
But quarantining inside two small rooms in a retirement village has more than the intended, necessary consequence. Quarantine is a muffler, it is a black-out shade. It is the space between a daughter and her father. The singular. The plural.
The death of George Floyd has shown once again how urgent and necessary systemic change is. In many cases, attacking a monument should not be seen as undesirable collateral damage, like looting a TV. Instead, these attacks are like gashes in the self-satisfied veneer of democracy and respectability, creating room for new narratives. In this case, immutable preservation is the actual violence.
And then I wonder: is this the quiet that dominates the life of all those people in hiding as well? The smallness, the excessive focus on detail, the mind going around in ever smaller circles? Will deeper thoughts and grand narratives only make themselves heard after this is all over?
In these days of world pandemic caused by something that can’t be seen by the naked eye, I’m coming around to seeing this song as one of faith in our interconnectedness, our interconnectivity. The songs and drumming drifting down from balconies to fill the streets in Rome can be heard echoing from rooftops and windows in Barcelona to Budapest, Ankara to Panama, New York City to Gurgaon. We all sing the same song, though in different keys.
Simone Weil once said that “Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.” On this sunny morning, getting up close to the wall, I’m beginning to understand what she means.
Today I share some of our family’s favorites—stories that reflect the power of community, the value of resilience, and the possibilities of hope—all with enough depth to engage even the adults in your family.
We say flattening fattening smashing the; and do I look sexy (chin’s up, buttercup) in my balaclava? We say what is ZOOM, then we Zoom. We say zoom is malware (but it’s all malware). Check this box if you are not a robot, now do you wanna zoom?
My crime? The sins of pride, indifference, sloth,
Not ceaseless prayer to rid myself of pain.
For I was taught to regard suffering
As integral to everything that mattered—
Life, love, and faith, all of which were found wanting.
And so I want to start again. Or not.
Churches, synagogues, and other places of worship have had to close at a time when faith and the comfort of community are needed most. But faith finds a way to lift us, even from a distance.
A Care Package for Unsettling Times
from the Image Archive
People also often enter sacred spaces at a slower, quieter pace, with a sense of anticipatory contemplation. This can be ideal for reflecting on art and ideas.
This is terror
and this must be how it happens—how need
alchemizes into belief.
Both hands of a clock rotate counterclockwise as I read backwards—you, give, leave, I, peace. You gave us peace. You left us peace. You left us for a little while until you returned, glorified in an era without aerial shots, prior to montage. A figurative clock I mentioned is anachronistic. You said, Peace I leave…
Really, though, I’m struggling. Is it absurd to adhere to a religion whose most central rituals my body won’t even let me perform? What am I to make of all the parables in the New Testament where Jesus heals the crippled and the lame? And, most importantly, if I believe we’ll all eventually be resurrected back into the world, then is this body—this bruised, broken, wreck of a form—the one I’m stuck with for all time?
I’d like to replace this perennially hamstrung, afflicted self with the more promising image, the person in communion with other persons.
I am none the less
boundless this morning,
trawling, under your sway,
winter’s counterfeit cages
wracked & rife & caroled
by the catalogue of all
I do and must learn to love
beyond my power to stay.
The monastic men and women of the fourth century went into the desert for the specific purpose of combating their demons. When I moved to South Dakota with my husband, I had no such design. I wanted a quiet place to write and to nurture our relationship. But by planting myself firmly in a marriage, in my grandparents’ house in a part of the world considered by most to be a desert, I had done something untoward, and more radical than I knew. In a place with few distractions, where it is possible to go to monasteries for excitement, I had taken on the burden of time.
“Courage, I think, inheres in the ability to realize that there is nothing singular in your own sufferings, that if they have value it is in the bedrock truth they enable you to fitfully glimpse and hopefully convey. This is as true for the truck driver or lawyer as it is for the poet.”
A. The heart is a divided city Between two alphabets. Church bells, minarets Betoken Time has stopped where it is broken. Nothing forgets. This is called history, not pity, It is not spoken. B. To remember is to cross Through no-man’s land Into an imaginary country You do not recognize But where the streets are…