Predictable Unpredictability


It’s February. I remember February two years ago. I was offering the Spiritual Exercises in their thirty-day version to a group of seminarians. Most were going off to exercise most days, at a gym not too far from the retreat house. It is impossible in gyms to be on a treadmill or cross trainer without staring at TV screens.

People on the long retreat are usually able to avoid the news intruding on their solitude. Goodlife Fitness probably doesn’t often host people on a silent retreat. One of my retreatants would come back some days and tell me about this illness in China, in a city that I had never heard of. James was convinced that something big was happening. I wasn’t so convinced. I just chuckled.

Well, guess who was recognizing a reality that continues to have a grip on the world two years later! This thing has controlled our lives for almost two years. Its impact has been enormous: health, the economy, working from home, ZOOM, essential workers, supply chains, sports, entertainment, politics, air travel, the type of mask to use, daily worship in churches, nursing home protocols, and so on.

I don’t often read a newspaper, but I cannot think of a section that hasn’t had to deal with COVID. I cannot think of a day when COVID and its variants has not been in the news. It is a fact of daily life. It’s not going away anytime soon. And so long as there are anti-vaxxers and the have-it nations don’t share with needier nations, this thing will keep recurring in new forms.

We are all tired of it. I am tired of it. However, I know that I am warm, safe, housed, triply vaccinated, well-fed, and I have access to healthcare if I am in need. I have had no health concerns. Of course, I also don’t go anywhere. My life is very privileged, even if confined.

I cannot understand anti-vaxxers, or the people who say that they are not anti-vaxxers, but still refuse to get vaccinated. (I had someone who proudly informed me that he refused to get vaccinated. So I told him, just as proudly, that I refused to meet with him in person. Who are these selfish idiots!)

I read a good phrase about COVID in The Economist, published out of London. A recent issue dealt with the new normal that we are living with every single day. Good piece, but I especially appreciated the phrase used to describe our COVID era: predictable unpredictability.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

Is it nearly over? In 2021 people have been yearning for something like stability. Even those who accepted that they would never get their old lives back hoped for a new normal. Yet as 2022 draws near, it is time to face the world’s predictable unpredictability. The pattern for the rest of the 2020s is not the familiar routine of the pre-covid years, but the turmoil and bewilderment of the pandemic era. The new normal is already here.

Welcome to the future!

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Friederika Priemer
    Posted at 01:56h, 21 February Reply

    Thank you, Fr. Philip Shano, for this unusual birthday gift!
    Blessings to you and me!

  • graeme quinlan
    Posted at 05:27h, 21 February Reply

    It is really quite amazing how we have handled this whole new way of life. So many obstacles have been thrown up at us over the past couple of years that makes one wonder ,are we going to become normal again any time soon. Normal as we used to live it without question. Well now we have the new normal, per’say, and we are having to adjust completely to it.The world has changed therefor we must adapt to many changes in our daily lives, no it is,nt easy but we can and we will, God dose’nt throw these things at us,no they have been natural as long as man has possessed the planet. But God gives the ability and the science to humanity to develop remedies to bring healing for all of our ailments. Never let us forget the Love of our Gog for His Creation. US.

  • John Montague
    Posted at 07:29h, 21 February Reply

    The obsession with individuality which is more obvious in western culture as distinct from Asian where the collective has priority, fuels the egocentric “me first” priority that leads to anti vax behaviour: the opposite of the Two Standards.

    Posted at 10:04h, 21 February Reply

    It is disturbing to read the comments expressed in this article. The “other” is not an enemy.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 12:27h, 21 February Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Harold Lenfesty
    Posted at 21:19h, 22 February Reply

    I appreciate you calling it as you see it.
    It may read harshly to some but the damage being done from unvaccinated members of society is much harsher.
    38,000 people in Canada are forecast to have died from Covid by June 2022.
    Now the 3rd leading cause of death after heart and cancer.
    Worldwide the number exceeds 16 million.
    ICU capacity, stretched before Covid, is overwhelmed.
    Almost all ICU patients admitted to hospital with Covid are unvaccinated.
    Patients are having surgeries and treatments delayed and inpatients are denied the emotional support they may have expected pre Covid.
    Loving our neighbour infers a responsibility for guardianship.
    Getting vaccinated is a relatively small sacrifice for the greater good and to guard our neighbours from illness or death.

  • Leanna Obirek
    Posted at 00:53h, 23 February Reply

    You know, Father Philip…I know you are humble, and would say that you are “ordinary”…but you are exquisite in your ordinariness. Reading your thoughts is like talking to a very good friend. You are so very special. ♥️

  • Susan Garbett-Snidal
    Posted at 10:31h, 28 February Reply

    Do we really know all that motivates “these selfish idiots”? It is so easy to dismiss the essential humanity of those with whom we disagree. I am triple vaccinated; but I know some thoughtful and caring souls, who are not. While I do not follow their ways, I still respect them. This upheaval has made it so easy to hate “the other”. Jesus forgave those who tortured him, even as it was happening. I pray this Lent, that I can fast from self-righteous judgement. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

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