A Round-Up of Encouragements

Have you been reading too much news? Me, too, and I find myself gravitating often to the most gruesome things I can find, like they can somehow confirm and thus alleviate my dread. But it doesn’t work, of course. Here are some antidotes to all the darkest prognostications, glimmers of light in this weird, weird time:

1. Over at the Big White Farmhouse, Ashley has this passage of C.S. Lewis that’s just terrific. I’ve read a lot of Lewis, but if I had read this before, I had forgotten:

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

“On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

2. Christine Keegan, new to me, has a lovely piece called “We Are Okay, We Are Not Okay,” written after 40 days of quarantine with her family in China, in which she writes:

I think too, that it is possible we are not as fragile as we might think. We modern people talk about our breaking points, we joke about them even. But I think about people like Corrie Ten Boom or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or a myriad of others before me and I think, maybe our breaking points should be a little further down the road than they are. We are broken, yes. I know we are broken. I know we don’t have it all together and that we have nothing to boast about in ourselves. I know it’s good to be real about our broken, messy lives and not to put up a false front or pretend that everything is okay when it’s not. And I am happy to say I am not okay. This family is not okay. Every day there are about fifty moments of not-okay-ness. But we are also okay.

Christine Keegan

3. “The Beautiful World Beside the Broken One” over at the New York Times is a lyrical reflective look at the world coming alive as we all retreat:

I can scroll and worry indoors, or I can step outside and remember how it feels to be part of something larger, something timeless, a world that reaches beyond me and includes me too. The spring ephemerals have only the smallest window for blooming, and so they bloom when the sunlight reaches them. Once the forest becomes enveloped in green and the sunlight closes off again, they will wait for another year. Sunlight always returns the next year.

Margaret Renkl

4. Here’s a thoughtful piece on gardening during quarantine and reflecting on a visit to the cloistered gardens of Thomas Merton’s monastery — I’ve been thinking about the cloistered life a lot during this time, especially having just read The Time Before You Die and Julian of Norwich.

5. Some gentle words on mothering under quarantine over at Learning As We Go — the later ones are especially good. My favorite, much-needed one? “Be generous with praise. Our kids are anxious. They may be reading the news, or just reading our moods, but they can tell things are not right. When we draw their attention (and our own) to what’s going well, the more of that we’ll get.”

6. Leah Libresco Sargeant beat me to the punch revisiting Kristin Lavransdatter in light of the current crisis — remembering Kristin’s death has kind of haunted me the last couple of weeks (along with the other books and movies I now highly regret). She reminds us that the quiet life demanded by quarantine is in keeping with the call of many Christians throughout history:

But it’s no surprise to Christians that we should value the invisible economy of grace over more worldly signs of effort and accomplishment. We are a people who believe that cloistered sisters, praying privately, have a powerful effect on the world. We are a people who believe that prayer, fasting, and humiliation are as much a part of our response to a pandemic as work on antivirals.

Discernment in Plague-Times

7. Finally, I’ll close with a link to the Wendell Berry poem, The Peace of Wild Things, which Dappled Things reminded me about.

What are you reading these days? What’s bringing you comfort?

I’m linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum again for Seven Quick Takes! Check out some other speedy posts.

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