Dancing With Our Shadows

Photo by Getty Images

Bill Simons

Suddenly we’re immersed in a brave new world. We’re consumed by a crisis like no other. Unseen and asymmetrical, it’s called a pandemic. But that’s too soft, too clinical.

This is not alarmist. Let’s be clear: a worldwide plague rages.

Surely we will find light within this darkness. But we are challenged. Our worries have found new depths. All has changed. Who knew that doing less would save lives? More than ever we realize our days have long been strait-jacketed by an innate, joyous but almost addictive need to achieve, work, consume, chatter.

In tennis we know well our hard-wired, staccato pattern that begins in Australia and ends in fall championships. Another week, another opening round, another final. One year, after losing early at Wimbledon, Stefan Edberg said, “Oh well, there’s another tournament next week.”

Pros play, fans yell, officials rule, coaches coach, writers write, weekend warriors battle, shops sell. We thrive on our interactions, our mobility, our problem solving, our routines, our banter. Now virtually all this has vanished. One event or institution after another drops away. Disneyland’s magic has been muted. Times Square is ghostly.

There will be no tennis at least until early June. The French Open has moved to late September. Wimbledon teeters. Rankings, along with our expectations, are frozen. The Olympics, which more than any other event celebrates the family of man, is in grave doubt – its flame may not be lit.

We are left with our families, our pets, and, ultimately, ourselves and our inner worlds. We have no markers, no roadmaps – except we know that we will never be the same.

We dance with our shadows. We wrestle with absence. Uncertainty is a certainty. Before us is a blank, daunting canvas. But isolation has its power. Minimalism can be mighty. We now have what we’ve never had before: time. Inner worlds unfold.

If ever there was a test of soul and psyche, it’s now. Ultimately everyone must ask themselves, “Through what lens do I view this?”

Around us the human spirit inspires. Kindness abounds, health workers sacrifice, neighbors help, strangers smile, generations connect, families bond. Children delight in being at home with their parents. One writer suggested that dogs seem happier – they have more time with their masters. Oddly, in this solitary universe we feel more connected.

Who knew the dreary chore of hand-washing would be  elevated into such a well-considered, life-saving art form? Unheard of concepts such as social distancing, self isolation and centering down suddenly define our lives.

Now, more than ever, people find solace on the internet. Its controversies rattle loud. We wonder what’s trending. We type and Skype, and folks are asked to describe their new world in six words.

Okay, the market has tanked. It’s hard not to panic. Jobs have vanished. What to do? Our feel-good consumerism feels petty. What will replace it? What can we learn?

What a wakeup call. We ask ourselves what matters. Can we choose to transform our world? Can all this lead to a kind of healing or even, dare we imagine, a spiritual awakening?

This is our new normal – abnormality. Can we possibly embrace it? In some inexplicable manner, could a deadly plague somehow become a blessing?







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