We have entered a new world. It’s true that this new world has emerged over decades as the destruction of other species’ habitats brings on a surge of new diseases. It’s also true that radical free market capitalism, which relies on systemic “shocks,” has decimented decent living for so many of us across the globe. Our new world, introduced by COVID-19, is our most calamatious encounter yet with ideologies that value individual profit over our collective well-being. This was never sustainable and never intended to be. The problem, now, is that we have to live--and heal--through it.
The toll of this period can’t be known, though it’ll be heavy and hard. I’m preparing, in my role as a death doula, to accompany many through grieving. The individual, communal, and collective trauma from these events will be enormous, and it’s cruel to pretend otherwise.
And, as adrienne marie brown invites us, in a recent interview on rushing toward apocalypse, “see both the wild wrongness in so many of our current structures, and the wild possibilities if we apply our visioning, organizing, earthling selves to the conversation and pattern seeking.” adrienne reminds us, wildness doesn’t distinguish between problems and possibilities as we so often do. As this crisis--set of cascading crises--reveals the precarity of our lives, we are in transformation, albeit a painful one.
I shared the new world mantra in late March as the virus was staking claim on the U.S. east coast where I live. It’s intended to be medicine for the moment, a grounding when we notice ourselves leaving our bodies, reacting from fear, and discarding our long-range vision. Let me share some further thoughts on the mantra’s meaning to me.
People are our preparedness. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned about six years ago, when I was undergoing one of the most challenging moments of my life, was that people are our most inexhaustible resource. Whether you need a hug or a dollar, a prayer or help with moving, good advice or groceries, there is no substitute for generous-hearted kinfolk, who you also lift up, encourage, and struggle with. Relationships are our best resources, always.
Sanctuary over seclusion. Shelter-in-place is challenging for some many folk for all the reasons. Our systems aren’t intact to ensure most of us have safe, spacious, clean homes to begin with, not to mention the overwhelming number of folks who work for survival, and whose work is transferrable to where we stay. And yet, most of us are trying to navigate what it means to stay in one place, for most of our time, indefinitely.
Sanctuary over seclusion is a reminder to myself that I can make sacred wherever I am, whomever I am. I carry sanctuary within me, and that to divine love, power, or any other connection I need. I can strive to stay in relationship with myself, others, world(s), and beyond even if I stay here. Seclusion is a symptom of fear and disconnection, although, like all feelings, it is valid. When I feel seclusion, I need to gauge my safety and wellbeing foremost, and I deserve to change my circumstances so that I feel safe, well, and in deep relationship.
Community care beyond capitalism. It is no exaggeration to say that capitalism is killing us. Quite literally as folks put their bodies on the line, as workers and caregivers, both our economic dependence on “disposable” bodies, and our systemic reliance on endless productivity, requires people’s lives. This fact is not a sacrifice, but a choice.
So, for those of us who want a new future where healing is possible for all of us--where we are no longer part of the overlapping trauma cycles that are the trappings of these greedy systems--we must invest in our collective care, and divest from individualist capitalism. Mutual aid, co-ops, and countless other forms of community care need our investment and attention more than ever. It’s important time to practice care, at all levels. We will need these skills and memories for decades to come.
Most of us can, and will, live through this. Maybe the scariest part of this moment is that we are no longer in illusion about the fragility of lives or our sad societal structure that doesn’t even honor life. Death, in all forms, is unavoidable and confronting. The wisest thing to do is to be with it, encounter it, and practice being fully alive. In the apocalypse.