Pandemic in Reflection: Finding Time to Consider Loss and Change
By Dennis Archambault
As the calendar year winds down and holiday socials return, with only a few masked guests at parties to remind us there still is a pandemic going, Lucas Johnson, executive vice president for Public Life and Social Healing for The On Being Project writes that we may not have taken the time to reflect on the change that has occurred in our lives and the lifeblood of the nation.
As has been often said, “We want to be done with this pandemic, but this pandemic doesn’t want to be done with us.” In our efforts to get past this ordeal, we haven’t taken the time to reflect, and more specifically mourn, the losses and appreciate the subtle but significant change that has occurred in two years of on-again, off-again lockdowns, social distancing, and fear that we may be next to contract COVID.
In a letter promoting the upcoming special online staging of the Greek play Antigone, a play on loss and mourning, Johnson writes “Around the world, in the past several years, we’ve experienced an unprecedented amount of death brought on by the pandemic. Now, viruses are living organisms and there is a level at which the pain and loss is the painful nature of life and disease. But we also know that some of our pain was the result of human failure. I don’t write here about calls for justice or accountability. I write here about a different human need – the need to mourn. I find myself still grieving the fact that the political battles that accompanied our tremendous loss prevented us from honoring the fact that something terrible happened. We must make room for the softening in ourselves and be hospitable for the softening in others that might allow us to collectively mourn. This, to me, feels as urgent as any call for accountability. I believe that we all know somewhere that it feels right to say that we – as a society, as families, as friends, as neighbors – we failed. Something wrong happened here. Something wrong happened to us.”
Johnson’s reflection melds the pandemic experience with the social trauma of the Black murders through the fatal force of law enforcement, as well as the rise of racism and antisemitism. “I’ve found myself asking, is our inability to acknowledge hurt and to grieve together part of the reason we can’t really grapple together with the hard challenges before us, in a way that honors loss and change and life?”
He believes answers may come in the “timeless resonance of ancient Greek texts,” with a contemporary spin: “Antigone in Savannah.” The performance is free, online, on Dec. 21. To register and more information visit Antigone in Savannah Tickets, Wed, Dec 21, 2022 at 5:15 PM | Eventbrite.
Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs at Authority Health.