So how are you managing these days? Myself, occasionally, struggling a bit. It has to do with a number of things. Depends on the day, really. Today struggling a bit because it was brought home to me earlier that the American ship of state is, at the moment, apparently rudderless. Today this makes me more sad than angry. Just when a country really needs competent and principled leadership….
Which – when struggling a bit with the state of things – is when it’s helpful for me to remember that there are a lot of things that I can neither control nor change. Sometimes it’s helpful to make a list in my head – not of the things that I cannot change because that list would be long and dispiriting, but of the things I can. For example. There’s a shelf in my room that won’t stay on the wall. It’s not a poltergeist, although the fact that the shelf never falls off the wall when I’m in the room makes me wonder if there might indeed be a poltergeist involved. Probably not. Probably it’s that the shelf is one of those shelves that has a hidden metal bracket at the back. The part of the bracket that’s attached to the shelf is supposed to fit into the part of the bracket that’s screwed to the wall. Which it does, except that it does not do so consistently which, as regards shelving, is a problem. But it’s a problem I can fix. I happen to know that there are two old-fashioned shelf brackets in the basement, just sitting there. I can clean them up, get the drill, get a masonry bit, get the appropriate plastic anchors, and put the old-fashioned brackets up on the wall. Then I can cut a piece of pine shelving, fasten it to the brackets with wood screws, and voilà! A functioning, and dependable, shelf.
Here’s another thing I can control. When I want to know what a word means, I can look it up. In that vein, I’ve just found out that voilà comes from the French for “look there.” But you knew that. Having taken two years of high school French I should have known it as well, but alas (which, BTW and as every schoolchild knows, is a Middle English word that is a combination of the exclamatory “ah” and the Latin word for “weary”), I did not. At least not actively.
As the economist and columnist Paul Krugman pointed out in yesterday’s (Monday, June 22) New York Times, only in America has the wearing of masks become politicized. In general, and to put it crudely, those in the center and to the left of center wear masks willingly. Those on the belligerent right (a small but angry subset of those on the right)(which belligerent comes from the Latin bellum, which means war, as in antebellum, or before the Civil War) refuse to wear masks and justify their refusal by minimizing or dismissing as a conspiracy a real and not made up pandemic that has killed no fewer than 123,000 Americans. And so endanger the lives and safety of other people. And set a bad example.
My grandmother used to warn me about getting in with a bad crowd. What that has to do with any of the above, I don’t know. Also, I’m not sure what she would have thought about my becoming a Jesuit.
Wearing masks is one way – and an important way – we can care for one another right now. It doesn’t really matter that another includes people I don’t know and will probably never run into again. It doesn’t even matter that another includes members of the belligerent right. Jesus – Emanuel, God with us – wants us to care for one another, regardless. He said so, more than once.
So, that guy at the end of the aisle at the hardware store, scowling at you because you’ve just noted, out loud, certainly awkwardly but to no one in particular and you really weren’t trying to pick a fight with anybody, that the guy at the other end of the aisle is not wearing a mask? Beloved. Belligerent but beloved. You? Peaceable, concerned, worried about the state of things but trying to be productive even as you worry, looking for ways to be a helper in the midst of not one but several crises, at the moment just trying to stay out of harm’s way while at the same time still hoping, perhaps foolishly, to find the stupid shelf brackets which are supposed to be right at this end of the aisle because you, breaking with tradition and because you were in kind of a hurry, asked the nice man at the counter where the shelf brackets were and he said, helpfully, that they were at this end of aisle 12, next to the mail boxes? Beloved. B.E.L.O.V.E.D.