A bit more than twenty years ago, after my 30th birthday, I went away for a long weekend by myself. I rented a cabin in the woods, and spent a few days alone (other than my dogs) thinking and writing, doing some divination and meditation and ritual. No radio, no TV, no computer — and this was the days before smartphones.
I came away with some insights worthy of the effort, but the most important insight was one I discovered on the trip home.
Driving through western Maryland, I passed a tourist-trap attraction, an underground cavern with periodic tours and a gift shop. And it struck me that a literal journey into the underworld would be a fine way to end my retreat.
So after a few days of silence, my first contact with humanity was families in line for the tour, siblings fighting, parents scolding their kids. It was not the smoothest re-entry. I was tempted to turn around and head back for the woods.
But as my annoyance grew, the contrast with the peaceful glow I’d had the past few days gave me pause. It let me stop and take a look at what was happening. My annoyance was not caused by “those people out there”; it was something happening inside of me.
And these people had the same things going on inside of them. Just as my mind was reacting with annoyance to the circumstances I was in, so the minds of that squabbling brother and sister were reacting in the same chain of unthinking stimulus-and-response.
With that realization my mind flipped over into something else: a feeling of camaraderie. Here we were, from oblivious bored kits to a spiritual seeker, all about to enter the underworld together.It was a minor bit of enlightenment that I come back to again and again:
We’re All In This Together.
And if anything in the mundane world should drive that point home, it is infectious disease.
The virus that causes COVID-19 does not care if you are a Christian or a Pagan or a Buddhist or an atheist. It does not care if you are rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight or bi, American or Chinese. It only cares that you have lungs.
And the economic disruption this pandemic has caused has put the lie to decades of market fundamentalism that taught that we are disconnected producer/consumer units. It reminds us that prosperity is the movement of energy through a community, not hoarding that energy — that connection is needed for wealth.
We’re all in this together. Which, in this weird instance, means we need to keep apart from each other.
So stay home if you can, and keep your physical distance if you have to go out. But let your spirit reach out and connect with your fellow humans.