Sunday, 05 December 2021

Share life’s joys as we reflect on past

“NO man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Thus wrote John Donne, is his 17th Meditation of 1624, a marvellous short piece in which he muses on the different ways we human beings are connected to one another.

When we think of what connects us to others, we tend to think of family, friendship, nation, culture, and religion. These can all of course be good things in themselves, and mostly they are. But all too often it’s precisely these same things which we use to build walls and separate ourselves off from others.

If the last 16 months have taught us anything, perhaps it is that our fundamental identity is that we are all human beings, plain and simple (sometimes gloriously so, sometimes tragically) — and that at the core of being human are the virtues of fellowship, community, and solidarity.

The coronavirus lockdowns has brought this home in a number of ways. If, like me, you tend more to being an introvert than an extravert, you may at first have appreciated the slower pace of life, less frantic “running around”, and more time alone.

But, even for most introverts, the lack of the usual level of human contact eventually brought a dryness and feeling of isolation. Extravert or introvert, we human beings need community and togetherness. Take it away or reduce it severely, and we begin to suffer.

The last 16 months have also brought out another aspect of human connection. Covid has reminded us (a somewhat bitter lesson, this) that we are vulnerable creatures. Vulnerable to suffering and disease, in addition to loneliness.

But the good news is that, even in the midst of the pain which so many have experienced, human solidarity has been brought front and centre. Whether it’s folk cooking for front-line health workers; GPs and other medical professionals encouraging one another in the midst of stress and long hours; neighbours calling on neighbours just to make sure they are okay; or countless other examples of such solidarity, it’s all brought home the fact that we are indeed not “entire of ourselves”.

We need each other. And, just as we have borne each other’s suffering (and will continue to do so), so we look forward to sharing in each other’s joys, as together we emerge into the “new normal”, taking with us the reminders of both the frailty and beauty of our common humanity, and the community and solidarity that are its lifeblood.

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