COVID-19 Diary from Northern Italy, musings on Easter Sunday
by Greg Hopkins, contributor – At first, the surreal landscape of empty plazas and darkened windows evoked a baffled sense of awe, wonder and confusion. I remember an initial blush of hope. Maybe Gaia had finally exerted her will. This was a period of fasting, a much needed reset. Then, everything would emerge stronger and more resilient.
Situational reports and daily debriefs are now piled up like garbage in Rome. Nobody seems to know exactly what’s going on or why this particular crisis has brought the world to a screeching stop. Amidst the confusion, insightful conversations have given hope. Charles Eisenstein’s essay titled The Coronation may be the crowning touch.
Weeks have passed, and here we sit. Another goddamn day in the house while trees leaf out, birds sing, and biking trails beckon.
There’s a pervasive, pregnant silence that seems to be demanding something of us all. I find myself asking, What? What is it you want?
Everything, it seems to say. Everything that can be named, thought of, remembered, imagined, touched, seen, heard, or felt. And, especially, all of your dreams.
That’s the hardest part. Dreams have been lost in this great uncertainty. Just weeks ago I could envision trips to France, Norway, Portugal, Cinque Terre in Italy. Since I live not far from Milan, these destinations were all within grasp. More than just traveling, these excursions were opportunities to feel alive, inspired, invigorated. To feel happy and in love, holding hands on newly-discovered beaches. Now, all of this is hard to imagine.
And in the midst of this great whatever-it-is, what I’ve come to know is how essentially unsatisfying life itself — straight up with no chaser — really is. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m rubbing up against the unsettling truth that life, stripped of everything and lying naked, is as unappetizing as overcooked steak. What makes it palatable are hopes that it will be better in the future. Plans and events penciled on our calendars. Memories of weekends with that special lover before the arguments set in. The thrill of anticipation. The solid satisfaction of completing something. But life itself, the bare essence of it, seems like something we can’t wait to obscure. It’s often boring. There are undercurrents of agitation, and stabbing impulses to find something, anything, to experience vibrancy.
I am trying to make good use of this stint in the hole to tap into the eternal now. I’m reaching for that ripe, transcendent goodness I’ve read about all my life. I’m doing the work. Several days a week I log into Zoom for Mutual Awakening Practice, or we-space meditations. And I experience, with others, a profound state of liberation. A place out of time where all is created, all is joined, and nothing is fundamentally wrong.
Then, I come back here. Right here. And I’m not sure what to do. I can be blown over by a difference of opinion. And I long for deep connection, intimacy, comfort, love, home, nurturing, safety. All those things that seem to have been swallowed by the uncertainty. Scrubbing away troublesome spots on my inner landscape, keeping fit, and tidying up the house won’t make this go way.
Pleasure has been rendered hollow. Was it mostly foolish avoidance to begin with? And if we got with the program and accepted Jesus, or allowed our egoic shell to unravel — whatever the hell is required — what then?
In my own terrifying heart of darkness, I don’t have the chops for this gig. I cannot row to the other side of this using willpower or logic. This, this, is the harsh lesson of uncertainty. Perhaps the dawn will come. Right now I’m still waiting.
After writing this, I watched the live stream Andrea Bocelli: Music For Hope — Live From Duomo di Milano. It was somber, uplifting, grand, and a reminder of the tremendous power of ritual, history, and music in a time of crisis.
Thanks to Chrissy Faith.
Editor’s Note: This piece originally published on Medium.com April 13 by Greg Hopkins and is reprinted with permission.