Saturday, 08 May 2021

Virus has made us think differently

JUST as all other faiths and denominations have had to abandon their regular worship, Henley Quakers have been unable to meet on a Sunday during lockdown.

Instead we have been sitting quietly for an hour in our own homes from 10.45am knowing that others are doing the same and holding each other and the world in the light.

Some of us, however, have managed to meet up for a virtual coffee afterwards and the other week we held a discussion group on the lines of Any Quaker Questions?

Unsurprisingly, the topic that came up was, in effect, what have we learnt from lockdown and how will we move on to make the world a better place?

The re-emergence of a sense of community throughout the land has had such a positive effect even when complete strangers will smile and greet each other. Most people have commented on the noticeable lack of pollution in recent weeks, both here and across the world as countries shut down.

The quietness has enabled us to focus on the sounds of nature, especially those of us fortunate to have access to the world outside and time to watch nature at work.

For a lot of us, having more unprogrammed time at home has given us the opportunity to reflect on the past and the future.

Of course, there have been terrible things happening during this time, too. The thousands of deaths, the grieving and loneliness, lost livelihoods and lost opportunities, happy times planned having to be postponed or abandoned forever. Have we learnt any lessons in this time? Perhaps we have begun to see the strengths and frailties of humanity in the actions and reactions of our neighbours. Perhaps we have more appreciation for the hardworking people we rely on, more empathy for those who are really struggling on their own.

So do we want to reclaim all our old ways and shrug: “It’s nothing to do with me, I can’t change the world’s wrongs?” Or do we want to start afresh?

I have been thinking a lot about how we live, how the things we do impact on other people’s lives, on all living creatures, for good or for harm. As humans, we do not own the world, we are just a part of its biodiversity.

So where do we start this renaissance? It is such a huge, complex problem but little by little we can all do things to make life on this planet better.

Maybe we should think about how our decisions here and now might affect someone living next door, 100 miles away or even on the other side of the world. For instance, is it better to support your local economy or a Fairtrade community in another continent?

One thing I would like to suggest we could do in Henley is to reserve Sundays as a peaceful day. The idea is that no one uses power tools in their outdoor spaces on a Sunday, thus reducing noise and pollution. It would be most beneficial to our health and to the health of the fauna in our gardens. What do you think?

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