The Gifts of Covid – 19



  1. The Biblical reference that works for me is the story of the Exodus:
    • the Israelites were in slavery to a Pharaoh – symbol of a dominant culture. They are driven into the wilderness where they are forcibly taught huge lessons.
    • “Manna” is the disturbing myth of being totally dependent upon the generosity of YHWH, at the expense of any accumulation of wealth (you gather only as much manna is you can use in one day).
    • The Israelites soon tire of this extended lesson on egalitarian community living and long to return to slavery.
    • YHWH has more in store for them: the Ten Commandments are ten ways of building healthy communities which are not the product of greed or deceit or violence, the characteristics of all civilizations.
  2. What follows are a series of learnings which I am in the process of noting as I live through – along with everyone else – this unpleasant pandemic equivalent of “wilderness.”
  3. Isolation has turned us introverts into intentional relationalists: we invite people one/two at a time for physically distanced conversations in our garden. A new appreciation for what community means.
  4. I had come to the point a few years ago of seeing my home as my monastery. Being asked to stay safe in relative isolation has simply brought me to appreciate the beauty and the peace that I have right around me. I need nothing more – not mountains, not lakes, not cities…
  5. Despite the comfort and safety of my surroundings, I am keenly aware of the pain and dysfunction all over the place. I am learning the Serenity Prayer – to have the courage to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  6. I have developed a much greater appreciation for the Here and Now. Here and Now are all we have, and are all that matters, and are rich and full enough for me.
  7. I have always needed to hug my grandchildren; I have not been able to in over three months. I think I have come to realize that it is possible that this is more my need than theirs… Some of my grandkids seem to be doing quite well without spending any time in my arms…
  8. While we hear about how the pandemic brings the worst out in some people, it also brings the best out in others.
  9. With more people walking on the streets, we have a chance to chat with our neighbours in ways we haven’t ever.
  10. We live on a flight-path. The silence in the air is a constant source of peace. Of course we worry about the loss of jobs. But we are also keenly aware that air travel is the worst kind of pollution.
  11. While many are longing for a return to “normal,” there are voices saying that “normal” was never normal, and that we need to seek a new “normal.”
  12. It would appear that countries with populist governments or societies which favour individual freedoms rather than responsibilities are faring less well than societies which stress collective responsibilities. (Look at the difference between the wording of the Constitutions of the US and of Canada.)
  13. I am seeing signs that the hegemony of economics in establishing standards by which to measure everything is giving way to a greater sense of compassion and understanding of current inequality.
  14. I am noting that more groups and individuals are asking themselves the big questions of what the “new” society should look like – a wealth tax; better senior care; guaranteed income security; no offshore tax havens; more corporate responsibility, etc. This is very hopeful.
  15. It’s giving me a pause to ask the question: what else do I really need? Expenses have dropped by over 60% per month. Might we see develop a philosophy of enoughness?
  16. Might needing less lead to buying less, lead to producing less, lead to lowering pollution?
  17. I watch as some of us re-learn what our responsibilities to our society are. I was raised to think of society (if I thought of it at all) as the backdrop against which I pursued my interests. I am now keenly aware that a community is only as healthy as the effort we put in to make it so.
  18. Politicians of all stripes seem to have set aside their ideological platforms to focus on one thing: the Common Good. Are we learning perhaps that ideologies per se are not good grounds for governing?
  19. Politicians who succeed in this pandemic seem to be the ones who make evidence-based decisions: science and medicine are given their due.
  20. When we see Democrat-led states dropping in case and death rates while Republican-led states are increasing, I am led to ask what it says about the two ideologies and their concern for people over profit.
  21. With travel far more difficult, maybe some of us are asking the question: what travel is essential and what travel is discretionary luxury that causes more harm than good?
  22. The virus spreads through human contact: the more dense the interaction, the more likely the spread. What does that tell us about how to behave?
  23. As we watch the epidemic spread throughout the world – almost in real time – do we finally get the impression that we are all interdependent?
  24. Especially, are we beginning to realize how interdependent we are with our environment? This virus is reminding us that we are having a very negative impact on our environment, and we have to change how we live on our planet or else we’ll kill it and ourselves with it.
  25. The link between the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and eco-justice seems hardly coincidental: are we as a species waking up to the impact our lifestyle has on others and on the planet?
  26. As a white middle-class male, I admit to making a huge number of assumptions about life that one can only describe as coming out of a position of privilege. I don’t do well when protesters are in my face about my unconscious biases, but this time allows me to start facing my racism and my other isms.
  27. New industries are popping up as traditional ones are crushed.
  28. Children spend more time with their parents and less with their peers. This may not be as bad a thing as at first it might seem: peer values are often not the best. Moreover, children watch their parents more, especially boys their dad, and, under the right circumstances, this provides them with their first look at adult male role models.
  29. People in isolation are taking up stay-at-home hobbies. Some are learning a language; others have taken up reading; still others watch opera and theatre; still others take up a hobby. People seem to be able to learn to keep themselves amused and growing, rather than rely on others.
  30. People are confronted with such powerful new realities that they are compelled to think, and not take anything for granted. This is leading many to rethink what truly matters to them.
  31. There seems to be a hunger for spiritual nourishment, given the huge increase in on-line attendance at services, live and canned.
  32. Speaking of churches, this pandemic is forcing people to rethink what it means to be the “Body of Christ,” or “followers of Jesus” when meeting in a building and following traditional rituals no longer works.
  33. “We’re not all in the same boat, but we’re in the same storm.” Some of us are more fortunate than many others; this simply increases our societal responsibilities by ensuring we can share what we can with those less fortunate.

André Auger, after retiring from a senior management position in student services at the University of Guelph, retrained as a spiritual director and has been a Covenanted Spiritual Companion at Harcourt United Church since 2005. He is also author of Praying The New Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life, a companion to Louis Savary’s excellent updating of the traditional Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, in the spirit of Teilhard de Chardin.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 10:30h, 12 September Reply

    Thank you André!

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