First, an update about mask-wearing at Sunday services…
We’ve been feeling our way through this matter for seven weeks now, since our return to in-person indoor gatherings. It seems like it’s time to address it directly again.
Oh, how I wish that there were one clear, obvious, correct answer! I find myself hoping to arrive at that perfectly measured decision that lands smack-dab in the sensible middle of all our circling perspectives.
Then I realize, time and again, that that’s a fool’s errand. Achieving unanimous agreement is not my job, nor the job of our community, and it’s not a workable approach to consensus. We embody myriad different, contrary, and changing ideas. That’s a strength.
Our work is to continue creating space for these varied and evolving viewpoints. Respectful space. Safe space.
The feedback that I’ve gotten from people regarding masks covers a wide range. Everyone has been kind, and all of us are committed to everyone’s well-being. Still, some people think it’s time to let the masks go, or make them entirely optional for those who are vaccinated. Others are very concerned about breakthrough infections and variants, and have told me that it feels like we’re already being a little too lackadaisical about it all.
My take is that probably 80-90% of our community is fully vaccinated (that’s totally a guess because I haven’t asked anyone and I don’t intend to) and it looks to me like almost all of us are wearing masks properly (covering our noses and mouths) when we’re together in large groups indoors. So my impression is that we’re doing really well, being exceptionally careful with each other. It’s the most-masked space I’ve been in besides an airplane in months.
AND I know that breakthrough infections do happen. AND I also know that I might never forgive myself if any of us got sick because I had gotten lazy and cavalier about our collective health.
The CDC’s recommendation this week that people resume indoor mask-wearing regardless of vaccination status makes it a little more obvious for me to reassert the same for us now:
My personal recommendation is that you get vaccinated unless you have a real health reason not to, because I love you. Bosque’s official request is that you continue to wear your mask when we’re together indoors, for heaven’s sake.
None of us likes wearing them! I know it makes it difficult to sing. We miss seeing each other’s smiles. They’ve gotten stretched out and the elastic doesn’t hold so well anymore. I’ve had pimple breakouts across the bridge of my nose for two years, and I hate it. We all want to be through this, done with this. But I think it’s pretty clear that the fastest and safest way through this is for us to take every precaution that we can when we’re together. The alternative is to go back to online-only engagement, which I don’t think anybody wants.
I’m not going to police it. I’m not going to call people out from the front of the room if I see someone with a mask slipping below their nose. But you might get a side-eye from one of your fellow congregants. And someone might not feel comfortable sitting next to you. And be aware that someone might stay home next week if we’re not all sensitive to each other’s comfort-level.
Keep sending me your thoughts and ideas. I do hear you all. As we continue to navigate our way through, I know that we’re not going to please everybody completely. I do believe, however, that if we keep having conversations and keep trying to understand each other, we’ll find that we agree a whole lot more than we disagree.
I read a piece this week by a math professor, Jordan Ellenberg, about how to inspire kids who find math difficult. Want Kids to Learn Math? Level With Them That It’s Hard. He points out that while it may seem like encouragement to say brightly, “Look, it’s really easy!,” this actually can be quite disheartening.
The truth, he says, is that math is difficult to learn. It may get easier once one grasps the fundamentals, but those fundamentals involve enormous conceptual leaps that can be very, very challenging. If instructors insist that it’s easy and a student doesn’t find it so, that can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy. Students will be less likely to ask questions because they’re afraid to reveal that it isn’t “easy” for them, which makes learning that much harder, and so the vicious cycle continues…
Instead of “it’s easy,” he suggests we offer “it’s hard, and you can do it.”
It made me wonder about my approach to spiritual principles and practices. Attempting to inspire, I hope I don’t inadvertently discourage by suggesting that any of this stuff is easy.
Because, honestly, it’s all really, really hard.
Gratitude is hard when we’re feeling lack and limitation. Forgiveness is hard when we’ve experienced hurt and injustice. Peace is hard when we’re riled up (and who isn’t, these days?). Commitment is hard when we’re confused. Joy can be hard when we’re sad. Love maybe isn’t so hard as long as we distinguish it from “like,” but that distinction in and of itself is darned hard!
I try not to offer up platitudes as easy answers to complicated and multifaceted problems. At the same time, I do believe the simple principle that as we change our minds we can change literally anything and everything.
So — maybe that’s simple but not easy. Elementary but not at all straightforward. Something about making peace with complexity?
I’m reminded of this cartoon I first saw years ago:
It’s kinda like that. How to do anything in two easy steps. Step one: hold a space for the thing you’d like for yourself and the world. Step two: keep creating and working it out for the rest of your blooming life.
It also occurs to me that the fact that things are HARD isn’t the real problem. Most of the things that we care about and take pride in are very difficult. We tackle plenty that’s perplexing and time-consuming, that requires skill and practice and patience, that stretches our capacities. And often, we enjoy these undertakings and activities immensely. We call them games, puzzles, sports, art, relationships, vocations, hobbies…
Why does hard sometimes mean “interesting and delightfully consuming,” and other times mean “dreary drudgery and irritating hassles” -? Maybe the difference is the degree to which we’re able to bring a sense of play to it.
That’s not to make light of anybody else’s struggles. But I know that when I can make light of my own struggles — well, then, they’re lighter. The more of my life I can approach with a sense of freedom and play, the more fun I can bring to my convoluted conditions, the less it all seems like one big long pain in the ass.
I don’t know how to do this. Sometimes I’m better at it than others. Sometimes it means not taking myself any more seriously than necessary, but still letting things matter enough that I give a darn. Sometimes (often) it means irreverence. Always, it means as much laughter and music as possible. I’m on step two of the owl, trying to enjoy myself and the enjoy the process.
©2021 Drew Groves