The Anxieties and Confusion of this Pandemic

Knowing and Not Knowing

It is a miracle that you and I and anyone on the planet is alive today. A group of scientists a few years ago attempted to quantify the odds of this, and what they came up with staggers the imagination: for the average human being, it is something like 1 in 400 trillion you and I were born, in other words pretty much a miracle. Shortly after the odds were revealed, you began seeing on web sites the following encouragement: “Today, act like the miracle you are.” Which I try to do to the very best of my ability, and my hunch is you try to as well. But at the moment it can be something of a challenge, given the present situation of COVID 19, of not knowing how long the present crisis will last and when life will return to some semblance of normal again in the New York area, across the nation, across the world. 

Knowing When to say When

These are challenging days for anyone, perhaps even more so for people of faith. We believe in a God who is with us to the end of the age, even if we are not always sure what the Spirit of God is doing in the world at any given moment. Indeed, the present moment and with it the unfolding COVID crisis is a reminder of how fragile human existence can really be, and therefore how precious is the gift of life. In these days of social distancing, of sheltering at and working from home, of having more time on our hands, let us “redeem” the time in a way that furthers our spiritual growth and development. On the one hand, we need to keep up with the news in the interest of personal and public safety and well-being. On the other hand, we will need to recognize the warning signs of our own central nervous system: when our anxiety approaches the “tipping point,” when it is time to take a “sacred pause” by putting down the smartphone, turning off the TV and the unrelenting “Breaking News,” and giving ourselves a moment to simply breathe and meditate in the interest of emotional and spiritual balance. As the oracle used to say famously at the Temple of Delphi in ancient Greece, “Know Thyself,” and in this case know thy limitations and when to say when. 

In the Midst on Peril, Doubt, and Confusion. . . .

And if we do have those existential moments of confusion, about the nature of the COVID crisis, how long it will last, how it will impact our lives in the long run, where is God in all of it, this is “normal,” even for people of faith. We are called by God, not to put an artificially happy spin on things, but to be honest and authentic, emotionally and spiritually. Go easy on yourself and others, if there is a moment of confusion or even doubt. Be kind and compassionate. And always remember that we are in good company with those who have gone before, as the famous prayer of Thomas Merton reminds us (see below). 

Take very good care these days, you and yours, be well and keep safe. You are in my thoughts and prayers. 

Kirk Bingaman


Thomas Merton’s Prayer

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope 

I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything 

apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”