For an introduction to this series, look here
The fairest order in the world is a heap of random sweepings
This is possibly not the most optimistic of Heraclitus’ sayings! I include it though because it is a lesson in humility, especially for those like me who like to make sense of things, to build systems, to understand what’s going on.
While it’s really important (for all of us, though some more than others) to be able to order and understand our experiences, it’s dangerous to do so prematurely. When the sand is shifting beneath our feet, when we really don’t know where things are heading, when it’s all too confusing, it’s so tempting to try and establish some firm ground. I’ve certainly been tempted to do that during this pandemic. I try to re-organise my understanding of the world, of what’s possible and what’s not, only to find that next week everything’s changed again. Added to the anxiety about whether I or my loved ones are going to become ill, it’s hard work knowing how to keep afloat on such choppy seas.
What I’ve tried to do, in order to deal with this uncertainty and anxiety, is to find spaces in my life which I can do something about, and use them to provide islands of stability. For me, it has been about the rhythm of prayer, about taking exercise regularly, about keeping up with my reading. All of them would be easy to lose in a welter of obsessively checking the latest news. But insofar as I have managed to keep an even keel over the last months, I think those practices have been essential. If I had given in to the temptation to come to premature conclusions, in the long run I think I would have felt even more disordered and even depressed. When the situation really is uncertain, it’s learning how to live with the uncertainty which is essential.