An Invitation to Stop
AN INVITATION TO STOP
This moment is a wilderness. Unprecedented.
All around the world, restaurants, theaters, schools, nightclubs—all shuttered.
Actors roam the streets with no one to be. Musicians sit in dark corners, their instruments quiet. Parents live everyday, all day, with children who’ve stopped going to school. Everyone worries about the money they’re losing. And, let’s not forget: people are sick. People are dying. Doctors and nurses, they’ve got their hands full. The scientists, swamped. Thanks to the gods for them. And anyone keepinga business open to serve a panicked public. What about the writers? Writes are either delighted to have time to finish their draft or depressed that their excuses for not finishing their draft are now all gone. ALL WE HAVE IS TIME.
No, that’s no entirely true. All we have is each other. And time.
This is what we’ve been given. Aside from a virus and a global shutdown, what we’ve really been given are our priorities, restored. Or re-ordered. Or, our priorities introduced to us for the first time.
A friend told me yesterday he’d lived in his neighborhood for five years and only yesterday has he learned their names, even exchanged phone numbers. What does it take for us to slow the hell down? Apparently, a pandemic, that’s what.
For folks who pay attention—and I don’t mean this to sound condescending, but there are folks who see the world differently, they look at it more closely. Symbol, metaphor, timing, synchronicity—all of these things play a large role in their everyday. And, for those people, many of whom are artists, this moment is about more than a virus. It’s about more than social distancing.
For those people, this moment feels almost pre-ordained.
We are being asked to stop. Stop flying and driving, stop going out to dinner, stop going to the movies and the bars…avoid the grocery story at peak hours, avoid crowds. Stop.
And, what happens when we stop making things happen? So much. For some, this is why we don’t stop—we don’t want the things that come with stillness. The sadness, or loss or confusion. Who am I if I stop doing all the things that make me who I am?
It makes me think of those nature films we used to watch in school—slow motion images of a seed growing, becoming a plant and then a bud appearing, then opening up, flowering.
Some people are angry that people are taking this moment too seriously. Why are you panicking? Why so afraid?? I understand. I’m usually the person criticizing others for having their feelings. Which is ironic, because, well, who am I to talk? Mr, Nothing But Feelings, Mr Raw Nerve, Mr. Defensive, Mr. Reactive…. But, instead of dismissing those people, the one’s who are buying all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer and more—maybe we can be curious about them? Why are they so afraid? Or, maybe they’re not afraid,maybe they’re hearing something else that is beyond the news, deeper than the media.
And, for those feeling people, maybe they can be curious about the people who are mad at them for being afraid, or preparing or buying all the toilet paper. Maybe this moment is an opportunity to ask questions we don’t always get to ask.
Here’s something stopping gives us: a chance to be curious. Curiosity is such a beautiful quality, it’s such a generous act. How can we be generous with a moment when everything is being taken from us?
What I am hearing in this moment is an invitation--“Chris, you have been invited!’ And I love to be invited! I have been invited to not do all the things I typically do. And who knew I was so ready to give them up? And invitation to cook more, to connect with friends, to sit and color. To take a two-hour walk with a dear friend yesterday, on a wide paththrough the woods, wide enough that we could keep a healthy distance from each other. It was so beautiful out, with views of the reservoir.
It’s as if the entire world is just now beginning to realize that we’re all connected—every one on this planet. WHAT? As if we’re walking around in the dark, and suddenly we’ve started bumping into people, into other countries—oh, you’re here! China impacts Italy. Iran impacts the US. The UK impacts South America. The past impacts the present, the economy impacts us all, and the environment—could this be the time when we all, collectively, suddenly, truly see the planet and its suffering? How the skies like to be less polluted, the streets enjoy being empty, the rivers are happier with fewer boats. The planet likes it when everything a bit more quiet.
What is the world we want to live in? For many of us, it’s a world of greater compassion, greater integrity. It’s a place where people look out for the vulnerable—the aged, the poor, the sick and underprivileged. A world where we take care of each other. Where we live in greater harmony with the earth and all of its creatures.
In the meantime, what can we do?
In addition to enjoying your time at home—I’d like to suggest you reach out to a performer who’s lost a bunch of gigs and buy some of their merch. Email an artist you follow and order some prints. Buy the book of an author or poet you like. Call the restaurants you love and purchase gift cards for meals you’ll enjoy when all this is over. If you’re someone who’s not so vulnerable to getting sick, ask a neighbor if they need anything from town.
When we emerge from our caves and squint at the sunshine. We will meet in the square and share stories of what we’ve been through. Like people who’ve slept through a party, we’ll tell each other about our dreams. We will honor the dead by living more fully and taking better care of ourselves and our neighbors.
We will accept the invitations that are offered.
March 15th, 2020