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COVID-19: A Time to Ask, “What is Enough?”

Updated: May 25, 2020

This time of “shut down” has given me a chance to reflect on what previously I took for granted, to rethink my priorities and the world I want to live in. The slowing down and disruption of “normal” life have allowed me to consider my habits, behaviors, and attitudes, some of which I recognize are not needed or desirable. Other people may be having similar awakenings; I hope that this might be a time of global self-reflection and transformation. How do we move through our collective grief and confusion into a new way of living and being? How do we move from the goal of getting everything back to “normal” to the goal of working toward a society based on the well-being of all?

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed massive social and economic inequities in the United States. Many of our citizens do not have enough food, health care, employment, shelter, or security. Our economic infrastructure is simply not providing financial security for everyone; the COVID-19 pandemic has made this undeniable. Then too, some of us are recognizing the depth and scope of our privilege and experiencing a growing sense of empathy for others beyond our own bubbles of comfort. With so many people suffering now – physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually. If we choose to look, we are brought face-to-face with the extreme imbalances in our society. Current systems of government, education, health-care, justice, economy, and so forth simply do not work for many people in our wealthy nation, much less in communities around the world who continue to suffer from the oppression of the global economy.

The Pachamama Alliance’s mission calls us to work for justice. Their “Awakening the Dreamer” program was, for me, a catalyst for reflection on the many unexamined assumptions that undergird the destructive state of our world. Through the program’s videos and questions, I suddenly became aware, in a personal and primary way, of the narrative of separation which exists within myself and within our society. In our culture, we see ourselves as separate not just from other people but also from nature and from all other things. “Awakening the Dreamer” also helped me recognize how the desire for “more”, expressed in over-consumption, overproduction, and stimulated by a never-ending onslaught of marketing messages, is woven inextricably into the injustice and unsustainability of our culture and modern civilization.

What if I, or better yet, what if we were simply to rest in the power of having enough, being enough – and allow a new world to evolve through us? A world that is just, sustainable, and fulfilling for all. The question reflects an underlying paradigm shift – from primarily caring for oneself (me) to caring for the common good (we). As Lynne Twist’s “Soul of Money” Institute suggests, we are collectively being called to “move from an economy of fear, consumption, and scarcity, to an economy of sufficiency, sustainability, and generosity.” When each person has enough, there are sufficient resources for all to thrive.

At this time of writing, in order to protect ourselves and protect our neighbors, most of us have already made changes that were previously considered unthinkable. The requirements of physical distancing, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, have demonstrated that meaningful change is possible; we are able to transform our way of living and make changes that benefit the common good. Now the question arises: can we commit to creating a new economy that values everyone and all life?

There is an understandable restlessness and urgency to restart the economy and get back to some sort of “normal”. Yet the inner work cannot and should not be skipped over; there is too much at stake. I remind myself that I am one with all life; my lifestyle and daily choices affect the well-being of all. This awareness is a grounding as I consider the global impact of my patterns of consumption. This historical “pause” presents an opportunity for all of us to explore new possibilities and to reimagine a just, sustainable future. This can be, and should be, a time for soul searching; for stopping business-as-usual, for examining and resetting intentions as deeply as one can.

Here are some questions intended to engage all of us in timely and necessary reflection:

  • In what ways am I trying to control my life (and the lives of others) rather than living humbly into “not knowing” and openness to new possibilities?

  • Do I believe that I am “enough” – without having to consume or produce more?

  • Am I putting my money in the service of love, or in the service of profit and “security”?

  • How do I (and we as a culture) detox from consumerism and busyness?

  • How is my behavior, my thinking, and my worldview being transformed during this time?

  • What changes in our lives and way of living truly translate into transforming our culture?

  • How do we, as individuals, “walk the walk” as opposed to just ”talking the talk”?

  • And again, what if we were simply to rest in the power of having enough, being enough – and allow a new world, one that is just, sustainable, and fulfilling for all, to evolve through us?

Finally, I offer you this message expressing the growing awareness of, and ever-deepening compassion for, all the different aspects of the situation in which we now find ourselves.

A Prayer for Our Uncertain Times

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love.

And during this time when we may not be able to physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the embrace of Love to our neighbors.

- Fr. Michael Graham, S.J.


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