In sharp contrast

I recall two poet-friends:

One a public high school teacher, quite prolific as both excellent poet and gallery-exhibited photographer, did most of his work during the busy school year rather than the summer; he could never quite figure out why the pattern was exactly opposite of what people would expect.

The other, having all the time in the world to write, could produce only disconnected flashes – nothing sustained or full but wild all the same.

They were buddies.

Moving past Covid

Yes, we were Zooming, as our monthly gathering of religious leaders in town has been doing for the past year, but the suggestion did come as a jolt.

For decades now, the largely informal group has been a way of supporting each other, clergy and laity, as friends and neighbors, and out of that has grown joint activity, such as our community-wide Thanksgiving, Blue Christmas, and Martin Luther King services or overnight shelter for the homeless in the depth of winter or recognition of challenges we face as congregations. It’s one of the things I will especially miss in moving from Dover.

“We need to think carefully about how we come out of Covid,” the Congregational pastor mused. “We need to give it the same attention we did going into the restrictions.”

We still haven’t had the conversation. Maybe we will on our next agenda. But she’s right. Our new normal won’t be the same as the old.

I’ve been hoping that when the restrictions are lifted and we’re all immunized, we’ll be hungry to be back in public get-togethers more than ever, including worship. But there’s also the reality that we’ve fallen out of social habits and may cling to our newer stay-at-home routines. There’s a recognition that for some, continuing the online connections may be beneficial – for invalids or people living at a distance, especially. In addition, a Zoom session can be more convenient than driving hours to a committee meeting, as we’re finding, though it also has drawbacks.

As organizations, we appear to have kept a loyal core but also seen, I sense, newer participants drift away. Can we find ways to lure them back or attract others once we’re “open again”?

~*~

You’ve probably already seen the report that for the first time since the figures were kept, church, synagogue, and similar membership in the U.S. has fallen below 50 percent. Some of the reaction has noted a difference between joining in a congregation in contrast to unaffiliated “spiritual” identity. Some other commentators have derided religion altogether, but we should also be aware of declining membership in various associations across the board. One of the things that struck Alexis de Tocqueville about American society in his travels in 1831-1832 was the degree to which we were joiners. Not just in churches but also trade and economic associations, fraternal societies, political parties, lodges and clubs, sports teams, choruses, bands, and theatrical groups, and more.

While I don’t consider myself to be especially “social,” I’m still a member of a half-dozen groups, and I’m not counting those that are essentially an annual donation and a membership card or magazine in return.

Not so for the younger generation. One daughter does belong to the county beekeepers’ group, but that’s it.

As others have noted, that’s not a good sign for building democracy or community.

~*~

But folks are understandably restless. Already, everyplace seems to be booked up for vacation travel. (Glad we have a place that’s suddenly “in.”)

That transition from lockdown to normal now promises to transpire over the summer, giving organizations a chance to anticipate the changes and readjust more slowly. There’s so much we don’t know, after all.

And we haven’t even touched on the future of retailing and other local business.

What are you looking forward to post-Covid? And when?

Think you’ll miss Zoom?

 

From a Jungian interpretation of the Holy Grail myth

So I lost the source, this still applies: “One of the first characteristics of a mood [the author distinguishes feeling, emotions, and moods] is that it robs us of all sense of meaning. Relatedness is necessary if we are to have a sense of meaning or fulfillment. If something is wrong with one’s ability to relate, the meaning in life is gone. So depression is another term for mood. … So a mood is a little madness, a slight psychosis that overtakes one.”

Also: “A woman is much more in control of her moods. She can use them. She tries them on and sees which one she is going to wear. A man doesn’t have as much control over his moods; in fact, he has almost no control. Many women are masters of the whole feeling department as few men ever are. Much difficulty arises because a woman presumes that a man has the same kind of control over his mood that she has over hers, but he doesn’t. She must understand and give him time, or help him a little bit. …

“There is a fine but important difference between mood and enthusiasm. The word enthusiasm is a beautiful word. In Greek it means ‘to be filled with God.’ . . . If one is filled with God, a great creativity will flow, and there will be a stability about it. If one is filled with the anima [a man’s shadow side, his feminine aspects; in a woman, it’s the animus, her male qualities] one may also feel creativity, but it will probably be gone before nightfall. One must be wise enough to know the difference between God and the anima; most men aren’t. … Laughter is positive and creative, unless it comes from a mood.”

Among the points the writer in question raises in that section is one noting the danger of a feminist stance pushing women into their animus side, which gives men no refuge. “In some respects this is necessary, but in some other respects it could be nearly fatal. Each [man and woman] should serve the other. This is the ideal. We can’t do without it. One cannot live without the service, without the love, without the nurturing and service of the other. Parsifal understands this …”

No wonder I’ve been going out of my gourd!

Yay! I got my first Covid vaccination!

I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I got the phone call asking if I wanted to move my appointment for my first Covid shot up from April 23 to February 12. I didn’t mind that the call came just a day before, when I was 311 miles away. I was overjoyed.

Besides, I had already planned to be back in Dover that day, I just had to be sure I got an early start and didn’t get delayed by weather or the like.

Better yet, it would eliminate the complications of one more trip later, likely after we’d sold the house.

Mine was the Moderna vaccine, and it went very smoothly. Yes, my shoulder was pretty painful that night, at least when I rolled over, as well as the next day. As for achiness, much could be blamed on all the packing and cleaning and a few runs to the city recycling center we were already doing. We’ll see how the second shot goes, though I am bracing myself.

The idea of being out from under that cloud by the beginning of April rather than early June is exhilarating. Here we’ve been under what one Friend who lives beside a lake in Connecticut calls Covid cabin fever, and I’ve been pretty much hunkered down through most of the duration, apart from the month-and-a-half I was a Census enumerator.

Still, there’s so much we don’t yet know. How long is it good for? What continuing precautions should we take? When will we all be able to move out and about freely, if ever?

How about you? Had the vaccination? Which one? How did it go?

The Achilles heel in Quaker culture  

When the Quaker movement swept through the English-speaking world and a bit more in the mid-1600s, it saw itself as primitive Christianity restored from before the time apostasy set upon the church – that is, sometime before the Nicene Council of 325 CE.

In theory, nothing could have been simpler or more welcoming than what they presented, an alternative Christianity for all, though in practice what emerged was often more difficult than many could follow, even before the disciplined rules of conduct set in.

I could lay out many of the obstacles to continuing the faith over the generations, even admitting that I wouldn’t have survived the lifestyle restrictions during much of that time, but more recently I’ve been seeing the most insidious impact was in the curtailment of emotion.

Yes, Friends were often seen as gentle and kind, but it came at a price. The Quaker culture that evolved, quite simply, suppressed any expression of anger – which was usually seen as leading to violence, which Friends abhorred – but only in recent decades has there been an acknowledgment that emotions don’t go away, and suppressing the expression of one curtails an open experience of the others. Burying anger, in fact, festers as depression, which can be glimpsed in the memorial minutes of many of the “weighty Quakes” of the past.

While moderation in daily life and meekness were encouraged, they could be performed thoughtfully or habitually without being deeply felt.

I’ve heard instances of old Friends’ reluctance to show emotion.

Greeting a son returned from wartime service with a handshake rather than a hug, for instance. My own family, several generations removed from its Quaker and Dunker (Brethren) roots, was similarly restrained. And, as has been said, the Hodsons didn’t know how to have fun. (When students at one Quaker school asked to have a fun activity, the elders had to withdraw to ponder the peculiar request and then came back with a proposal to paint a widow’s barn. An old Brethren, asked what he did for fun as a child, was perplexed by the very notion and finally replied he guessed it was bringing the cows in each evening.)

Then there’s the sly comment that passed among young Friends in the 1970s, asking if we knew why the old Quakers were so opposed to handholding. The answer? It might lead to premarital intercourse, not meaning sex but rather conversation.

There are also stories, usually told within families, of the individual who would never, ever, express anger only to have an offense fester, leading to deeply hurtful reactions in convolutions much later. You can guess, the baffling ex-mother-in-law, after the divorce, that sort of thing.

Not all birthright Friends, I should add, are so conflicted. Many I’ve known have been among the most loving individuals in my acquaintance.

But in looking at the decline of the faith over its history, I feel an awareness of the psychological undertow needs to be acknowledged, especially as we face the future.

Religion, as I see it, always has work to do to bring each person to a fuller experience of life.