Pandemic: A Time to Evaluate Our Lives

We are calling on Julian of Norwich to instruct us in a time of pandemic for her entire life was spent within the reality of the Black Death that resulted in the killing of 1/3 of the population of Europe.  Understandably, it awakened fear and dread that infiltrated the entire culture including religion in severe ways.  Indeed, as discussed earlier, it had the overall effect of killing creation spirituality in the west. 

Statue of St. Julian of Norwich outside of church. Photo originally posted to Flickr by Matt Brown.

Julian was an exception.  She amazingly writes of the primacy of Joy and Gratitude and Goodness in creation.  She stands up to pessimism and self-pity.

Thus she becomes a special spiritual teacher for us in this time of coronavirus pandemic.  She instructs us not to shut our eyes to the dark facts, but also not to wallow in the pain of our times.  To look for the goodness. 

We help others when we reach out. Photo by Serrah Galos on Unsplash.

Our last meditation we considered Julian’s teachings on Goodness, indeed she instructs us in what I would call a metaphysics of goodness.  When times are tough you want to remember goodness.  This is one way to endure a plague. 

A time of plague is a time to think more deeply about what life is about, what is important.   Staying home can be a kind of retreat as we withdraw not only to avoid spreading the disease but to journey inwards to what Aquinas calls the “house of the heart” where wisdom dwells.  This is a good reason why reading and praying the mystics can be a very valuable exercise in a time of coronavirus. 

The presence of death or sickness can bring about a new awareness and deeper questioning about one’s life.  For example, just what values most motivate us?  What to do with the rest of our life?

Julian herself underwent such a return and questioning when she found herself in a deep sickness and she asked herself: “Is this all there is to life?”

Camden Voices produced this wonderful virtual rendition of True Colors by Cyndi Lauper, to encourage people as we continue in this pandemic.

Here is how she wrote about that experience: Since I was only thirty and a half years old, it pained me to think of dying—not because I had special plans for my life nor for fear of any pain. But I longed to love God better and longer here, so I might know and love God more in the joy of heaven.  In so short a time I have experienced so little of life.  I thought my life as nothing and no longer giving praise to the Good Lord.*  

There can be a collective return to the wisdom of the heart in a time like ours.  We too might be asking: How do we create a more joyful society, a more just and compassionate one, after this crisis passes?  What gifts do I/we want to give the world before we die?

* Brendan Doyle, Meditations with Julian of Norwich, p. 23.

See Matthew Fox, Preface, in Doyle, Meditations with Julian of Norwich, pp. 11-16.

See Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the prophets, pp. 75-104 

Banner Image: Reflection on Britannia Beach in Ottawa, Canada. Photo by Stefan Spassov on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

Are you taking this coronavirus time to rethink your values and priorities?  To find deeper meaning in your work and life style?

Recommended Reading

Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.

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6 thoughts on “Pandemic: A Time to Evaluate Our Lives”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you for your reflections. Lately, I’ve been particularly troubled by the idea that this is an extended time to enter into contemplation when there are so many people for whom that is not true. I think about kids who are now home in abusive situations or who don’t have food…for whom school was their place of safety and where they received hot meals. I think of women stuck home with their abusers. I think of all the people facing eviction, unable to pay bills because our society never believed their lives to be valuable. I think about the farm workers, etc.
    How do we incorporate this tension?

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Ann,
      Thank you for commenting on the tension between those for whom the pandemic is a luxury for contemplation while for others it is a time of fear and loss. You are not alone in your concern. Many who consider themselves privileged are wisely uncomfortable with the painful situations they have read about.
      Our pain and our compassion are gifts from the sacred transformation being brought on by this pandemic. We have time to notice. We have time to care. Our outrage begins to flare. We can listen to the stories of people who do not have food, shelter, and protection. We mourn every minute that at risk children and abused spouses stay sequestered at home. We feel gratitude and shame when someone working for minimum wage delivers our packages or our groceries. We begin to hurt.
      All of this is very important work in service to our communities.
      Discomfort is an important teacher. This pandemic is insisting that we listen to our own discomfort so that we can listen to the despair of others. The wartime expression, “They also serve who stand and wait.” takes on new meaning in our context. Those who are waiting can serve their communities by listening, observing, acting on others’ behalf, and imagining a more just socio-economic system than we have now. It’s an essential piece of our recovery. Even if it looks like we are just gardening, or reading a book, taking a walk, or checking the news on our mobile phones.
      Discomfort is one of our best teachers. We should learn from it.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  2. Avatar
    Ellen Canavan

    I always learn something from your daily Meditations. I want to know more about Julian. And Wendell Berry. The song done by the choir, true colors, was something I’m sharing with everyone. Just beautiful

    1. Avatar
      Margaret Rose Hess

      The daily Meditations are so very meaningful to me, too. And I was also greatly moved by the choir, their voices so consonant, clear and confident, with words of healing love that we all need so much right now.

    2. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Ellen, Thank you for writing. There are many collections of Wendell Berry’s poetry. I am sure you will find a rich assortment of poems that will speak to you. As for Julian of Norwich, you might try Matt’s book on the Mystics. He covers 365 different mystics tn it including Julian of Norwich. Enjoy the search!!

      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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