TISCA Guest blog – Lockdown new normal and Summer Holidays

TISCA Guest Blog

We have asked one of our Chaplains, Alex Aldous of Prestfelde Preparatory School, Shrewsbury, if we might occasionally publish his regular ‘thoughts for the day’ – and he has agreed.

The first blog was written in late June 2020 and considers, as we emerge from lockdown, what the ‘new normal’ should look like.

The second blog, written in July and just before the summer holidays, urges us to remember we are human beings and not ‘doings’.

The new Normality? – 29 June 2020

One of the more intriguing group of musicians of the 1960s went by the wonderfully tongue-in-cheek name of: ‘Bonzo Dog Doo-bah Band’ with its particularly successful single: ‘I’m an urban Spaceman.’ Another of their psychedelic pop/comedy rock singles in the 80s was entitled ‘Normals.’ Being sucked along what sounds like an hermetically-sealed conveyor belt, ‘normals’ are processed and gawped at by a spoof inspectorate. ‘You think you’re normal?’ Here comes one…he’s got a head on him like a rabbit.’ Chorus: ‘We are normal and we want our freedom.’

But what is ‘normal?’ Last week I attended an online course for Trauma and Bereavement where we were informed that trauma occurs when core human beliefs are threatened:

1) That nothing bad is going to happen to us

2) That the world’s generally predictable

3) That people are essentially decent.

The last few months have shaken these first two beliefs and things we counted as dependable – employment, financial security, and uninhibited socialising have seemed certain no longer, and normality itself seems like an endangered species.

In the West, we are largely screened from the unpredictability of much of the world’s experience where people are victims of volatile weather conditions, despotic governments and relentless poverty, but the Corona pandemic has united the world in a shared experience which has left humanity reeling, and, of course, it is the poorer nations and the poorer within our own communities who are left to suffer its after-effects most.

We are essentially creatures of habit and we crave for a return to that which we know, a safe retreat to patterns of living with which we are familiar. We in our own community hope that in this vaccine-lacking limbo-land, still we seek to emulate that which we have known and yet mindful of the need to change and adapt as the virus follows its course. Aside the need to adjust technologically and respect social distancing, what are we bringing to our shared existence that can enhance our common experience and raise standards within normality? It would be my hope and prayer that a deeper understanding of what it is to value each individual made in the image of God would emerge and a real comprehension that there is more to life than riches, success and fame.

A new normality might require us to look again at Jesus’ model of real servanthood, ‘washing the feet’ of the unlovely, the rejected and the outcast and tending the wounds of those who are being mentally scarred by lockdown and the effects of the virus.

Being normal and wanting our freedom is perfectly understandable but not desirable if it’s an inappropriate return to mass raves in gathered spaces or unthinking frequenting to known beauty spots – that is the old selfish gene rearing its ugly head. But if it means freedom from: mental anguish, loss of direction and being without purpose in life and we are the agents of this to one another, in the name of an outpouring of sensitivity and compassion then let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

But is it new? Only if we’ve never tried it.

Remember who we are – July 2 2020

As more and more people emerge from their sanitised bunkers which have imprisoned them for so long, it is only natural that our perspective about the world, our hopes and fears and perhaps most importantly other people will have been conditioned in various ways, fuelled by the media, our own state of mind and by the virtual and occasionally ‘real’ experiences we have shared with family and friends during lockdown.

For some, there is a very real challenge of seeing ‘people out there’ in very different ways: instead of viewing them as sources of comfort, closeness, and encouragement, they become the very threat to their own survival. Homo sapiens is now not a sophisticated collocation of atoms, a powerhouse of electrical impulses or an arrangement of genes made friendly through social interaction; humans are now ‘germ factories,’ albeit dressed up with benign smiles and well-meaning gestures. The chemical attraction that once led to a hug or an embrace, is now replaced by a decided dodge or rugby-like ‘jinx’: it’s as if we have all had our polar instincts re-magnetised!

The picture I am painting is perhaps an extreme or even a parody of what is actually the case; nevertheless it is as if fear drives us on more than love or the need for affection. Others may take a completely opposite approach tending towards the irresponsible and flout all warnings, seeing others as a means of self-indulgence. We will wait to see whether this is more the case this 4th July as pubs and restaurants are opened on the day of ‘independence’ – or will it be the day of ‘selfishness’ and off the ‘deep-end.’

Perfect love drives out fear

In the first letter of John we read that ‘perfect love drives out fear.’ It is that perfect love of God in contaminating himself by becoming flesh and identifying with all that humanity represents, which still beckons us and defines us as human beings. Yes, we are still human beings not human doings: in whatever state we find ourselves post-lockdown, it is the God of love which dares to come close and enfold us, to be drawn into uninhibited relationship with us, so that we can once more recognise and value the Imago Dei in other people and love them. This is the love that yearns to be close, yet respects the social distancing, never falters in its appreciation of what another human may be going through and seeks to understand rather than be understood.

As we continue to be caught in a state of limbo and still nervously look over our shoulders at what is happening in other parts of the world, let us all draw deeply on that love of God which hurts for the world – may it throw us back onto Himself for strength and to find the reason to be – to ‘humanly be,’ for his incarnation, his overcoming death and his resurrection and ascension are a living reminder that death and suffering never have the final say.