Like most people I am utterly fed up (that's putting it very politely) with COVID. It has sucked the joy and pleasure out of life. It is like a dark cloud hanging over our lives and even on the brightest Summer day that cloud is there – It may not be visible but you can feel its presence nontheless. I would consider myself relatively compliant when it comes to the necessary public safety restrictions – indeed I previously argued publically that the churches should not be lobbying for an early return to public worship.
However the recent bad news re the D variant and the pulling back from planned easing of Covid measures caused something to snap and I took to social media and had a rant about what I called the 'Stockholm Syndrome' that appears to be affecting our national psyche. When I cooled down I had to acknowledge that caution is required at this point and that until most of the adult population is fully vaccinated it is probably wise and necessary to hold back on indoor dining and other social pleasures that we once took for granted. In saying that I am hugely cognisant of the high price that those in the hospitality sector have paid and continue to pay due to these measures. For them especially I long for a return to 'normality'.
What disturbs me most though now is the common response when I or others express this desire to get our old lives back and usually it goes like this: 'O but this is the new normal – you'd better get used to it' – Or when I say I am looking forward to ditching the face mask I have heard the response from more than one person that they quite like the mask and are in no hurry to stop wearing it – 'At least it keeps the colds and flu at bay'! I find this not only mind boggling but also very sad. For me it signals a loss of Hope and a resigned acceptance of the status quo and I for one am not prepared to go down that road – Hope is a vital component of our humanity and when we give up on that I think we may as well give up full stop.
As a Christian priest Hope is also central to what I do – I try to witness to the Resurrection, Hope not only to that of Jesus and our own ultimate destiny but also to the hope of a better tomorrow and the hope that our yesterdays and today's do not determne or limit our tomorrows.
That same hope is what keeps me going as I currently witness my 24 year old son with special needs rapidly going blind – I hope that if not a miracle in the short term that in the longer term medical science will provide a way for him to regain that most precious gift of sight. I don't know but I will contine to hope till my last breath on this earth.
Covid may not have taken our sight away but in many circumstances it has deprived us of the sense of touch which is equally essential to our humanity. The skin is the biggest organ in the human body and it is made for touch as we are made for touch. That touch may be everything from a handshake to a warm embrace, the exchange of the Peace in the liturgy, a hug of comfort for the bereaved or the passionate embrace of a lover. The contemporary author and poet Margaret Atwood said of touch: 'Touch comes before sight, before speech - It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.'
I still hope for that truth and I still hope for a return to the messy, tactile, touching and cold and flu-ridden world that I took for granted and I will never give up on that hope. I know for now I must be patient but I will not surrender my life to Covid 19!