“Yes, change is the basic law of nature. But the changes wrought by the passage of time affect individuals and institutions in different ways. According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”
In 2015, my blog post recalled our experience of Mark’s entering cancer treatment: At first, it was a parade of horrors and unknowns, terrifying us, but by Week 9 our visits to the chemotherapy ward became routine and unremarkable. We had adapted.
Now, on a grand scale, we all face a changing world with an uncertain future, and we must adapt. Most of us are confident that this nasty virus isn’t going to end this world by any measure, but we also know that after this crisis is over, after the virus has been lassoed or stomped or otherwise put under some degree of control—our world will have gone through some significant changes that will persist. We can speculate, yet we just don’t know what those changes will be.
Right now, our job seems to be to wait it out. I’m not complaining about my personal situation: I am living in a comfortable place where social distancing is relatively easy, I have enough to eat, and I’m not among the millions who have lost their livelihood. And yet…if there is one word that describes how I feel, it’s lethargy. I know I’m not alone. Many of us now have more time on our hands that we’ve had in years, but instead of forging ahead with new projects and pastimes, we suffer from a lack of energy and enthusiasm. When we have to stay away from our friends, dart in and out of grocery stores, and mask ourselves like bank robbers, it takes a toll on us all.
I was out walking yesterday when a man and his small daughter, maybe five years old, rode by me on bicycles, hers with training wheels. He was some distance ahead when she tipped over and landed herself in a splat on the sidewalk. I rushed over to her to help, my arms ready to lift her, when I realized that I couldn’t. I represented danger, not assistance. I stepped away and waited for her father to pedal back. It hurt me.
Perhaps our country, maybe the world, is in the throes of a collective emotional depression, a grieving for all that has been changed and lost. I am reminded of the first line of Rilke’s poem, Pushing Through: “It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock.” That’s how I feel.
We know our job. If we’re not courageously working in medical facilities, grocery stores or other essential businesses, our job is to step aside and wait, for whatever new world is awaiting us. And yes, at the end of this, I am confident we will adapt.
Have you noticed we don’t say “Have a nice day anymore?” We say “stay safe” or “stay healthy.”
Stay well, everyone.