'Be careful what you wish for, for you may surely get it'
So the saying goes, hand in hand with the belief that a wish or prayer is heard across all dimensions, though the response may not be what we expect. At this moment in time, I can’t help but think that Coronavirus is an answer to many heartfelt prayers, even though it causes great suffering, drives us to fear, brings out the worst as well as the best in us, and threatens lives – ours and our loved ones.
How many of us have fervently wished or prayed for fewer planes in the sky, better air quality, more time to sit and appreciate the beauty of our world, more ‘quality time’ with family and loved ones. How many of us have protested against the causes of mass extinctions, spent time discussing how to radically change our economic systems and yearned for nature to find a way of healing itself...see what I mean?
Finding a way to relate to this pandemic other than through fear is not to be unfeeling nor without compassion. When we drop into that quiet place beyond personal and communal anxiety, that space of deep listening, we have a chance of observing the intelligence behind the great web of life….noticing the intricate weave of creation, and learning.
Our early hunter-gatherer ancestors understood their part in the weave. Even our early mystical bards of the 6th-11th centuries sang of their oneness with all living things:
Nyt of vam a that
It was not from a mother and a father
pan y’m digonat,
that I was made,
a’m creu a’m creat
and my creation was created for me
o naw rith llafanat
from nine forms of consistency:
o ffrwyth, o ffrwytheu,
from fruit, from fruits,
o ffrwyth Duw dechreu;
from God’s fruit in the beginning;
o vriallu o blodeu,
from primroses and flowers,
o vlawt gwyd a godeu,
from the blossom of trees and shrubs,
o prid, o pridret
from earth, from the sod
pan y’m digonet,
was I made,
o flawd danad,
from nettle blossom,
o dwfyr ton nawvet,
from the ninth wave’s water.
(Taliesin, Kat Godeu, lines 1-23)
Over time we’ve exchanged this oneness for ‘husbanding’, ‘managing’, ‘harnessing’, abusing and outwitting nature. The root cause of this COVID-19 virus is our ongoing refusal to recognise that we’re part of life’s web, rather than superior to it.
Speaking in the New York Times in 2012, environmental journalist Jim Robbins wrote about a growing understanding of infectious disease: “Disease, it turns out, is largely an environmental issue. Sixty per cent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans originate in animals. AIDS, for example, came about after hunters in Africa killed and butchered chimpanzees and the virus crossed into humans.”
Seven years later, COVID-19 originated at a wild animal market in Wuhan, China, where it probably made the leap from bats to pangolins to humans. We haven’t been listening – not really.
As we cross the spring equinox here in the northern hemisphere, all life is unfurling, flourishing, growing. All nature is singing the song of spring’s renewal. It is only we humans who are hibernating. As our impact upon the environment slows down during this pandemic, nature is responding in all sorts of wonderful ways. Most notable perhaps is the vastly improved air quality being recorded worldwide due to reduced industrial and airline emissions.How extraordinary nature is at healing, and what comfort to remind ourselves that as a part of nature, we have that capacity too.
On Saturday night, along with members of our Dadeni tribe (all remotely) we made offerings and prayers to the fire to mark the spring equinox and new moon. We wove prayers to ease the suffering of the sick and grieving, and in support of those at the front line of this pandemic. We didn't however, pray to ‘make it all alright,’ that would be to deny all of us the learning this teacher CORVID-19 is here to impart. We must be clear and careful with the words of our prayers…..for they may surely be answered.
"The world was made partly that there may be prayer, partly that our prayers might be answered."
C S Lewis