As the header of this Shingi states – we are now in the ‘neo-normal’
phase under the corona pandemic. New York State was the epicenter of the COVID 19 pandemic in the States for several months early on. We suspended all our in person gatherings at the temple, stayed in place at home expect for forays to a grocery store or pharmacy, cancelled all activities, such as retreats, the 15th / 25th anniversary observance and our yearly priests training program. After the intense, justified, paranoia about the contagion subsided a bit we have slowly cautiously, following New York State guidelines, and have held certain activities, such as a large outside memorial service and a monthly RSVP in-person service in the hondo.
SARS-CoV-2, commonly referred to as COVID-19, is a shapeshifting entity that eludes simple characterization. As a result, we are unable to state with any certainty where ‘normal’ will be two months from now, a year from now? So, we are living in a neo-normal phase of our lives until whenever.
When we first felt the isolation, saw our friends become ill, stopped commuting to work, suffered economic hardship, we were also witness to racial injustice and discord that was exacerbated by political savagery. Our lives were out of balance in multiple dimensions at once. To me it felt necessary when our lives were being wrenched from their moorings to write as a way of providing a perspective, hope where none seemed apparent. After several months, the exceptional began to feel neo-normal. Writing to provide perspective no longer seemed necessary, because we had settled into an altered pattern of being. We had not exactly come to grips with what was happing, we had become numb to the pain. Speaking for myself, I certainly have had a sense of time disorientation. So writing became difficult, what more can I say?
In Columbia County, NY, where the temple is located, as of October 9th there are currently 20 active cases, one person currently hospitalized and 35.784 PCR tests, that’s over half the population of the county. Of the 586 total cases reported in Columbia County since March, almost 200 of those people were in two nursing homes, and many of the rest were people from New York City, have vacation homes and decided to sequester out of The City. Altogether there have been 37 deaths, and there is no one with COVID 19 currently in an ICU bed. Canaan, NY, our Town, has had two new cases since May 1st.[i]
During this neo-normal period whenever we go among people outside of our family and close friends, we wear masks, are careful to maintain social distance, in general follow the commonsense directives. If we choose to eat in a restaurant, we first survey the place to determine if it is following the guidelines before we are seated. We remove our masks when we are with a group of people who are known to be noninfectious, our family and close friends who are known to be COVID free, etc. While there are currently hotspots, mostly in NYC and Rockland county, Columbia County is still in stage 4, the stage previous to a full reopening.
Given the preceding statistics, we can continue with our monthly in-person gatherings. There is some concern as to what might develop once the flu season is upon us. IMPORTANT – get your flu vaccine. While it does not guarantee that you will not get the flu, it does dramatically reduce the chances, and is theorized to decrease the severity of the flu if one does contract it. There are other advantages that I will not go into at this time, the research is still preliminary. In the event there are changes in the COVID 19 incidence, or flu contagion, we would cancel the monthly in-person gatherings. We must be flexible.
https://www.columbiacountynyhealth.com/home/coronavirus-covid-19/ accessed 2 PM, October 2nd, 2020.
WORTH YOUR TIME AND EFFORT:
The Time for Reckoning Symposium: Confronting systemic racism, seeking justice, and reimagining society.
On behalf of the Center for Law and Justice and the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany, Dr. Alice Green and Paul Grondahl are proud to announce the launch of The Time for Reckoning, an online symposium examining the impact of systemic racism on Capital Region communities. Our goal is to raise awareness, foster dialogue, find common ground and work collectively to create a more just society.
Produced in the wake of national and local public outrage over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, The Time for Reckoning: Confronting Systemic Racism, Seeking Justice, and Reimagining Society presents four themed weeks addressing community concerns. The symposium culminates during the week of October 26, when public TV station WMHT will air a segment of its “New York Now” program devoted to The Time for Reckoning symposium.
The Time for Reckoning features Capital Region personalities interviewing such acclaimed national racism experts as Robin DiAngelo (author of White Fragility), as well as local community members sharing deeply personal experiences about race in conversation, prose, poetry, drama, and film.
At key points during the symposium, a panel of government officials from Albany, Schenectady and Troy will respond to constituents’ concerns about systemic racism and a panel of community members will have a chance to reply.
Additionally, The Time for Reckoning website — www.timeforreckoning.org — offers a wide variety of resources for further study and action.
Themes for the month-long Time for Reckoning series:
- Week 1 beginning October 5: The impact of systemic racism in Capital Region communities.
- Week 2 beginning October 12: Highlight issues of trust between community members and the government officials who serve them — particularly police.
- Week 3 beginning October 19: Explore possible avenues of reform to ameliorate systemic racism.
- Week 4 beginning October 26: The final week will address accountability — how can the community monitor government actions to guard against further injustices due to systemic racism?
Recently I was asked to deliver the aspirational prayer at the beginning of an interfaith Zoom session. I would like to share just a segment of that because I think it expresses the situation were in currently.
“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness. The separateness from each other in the separateness from the greater consciousness that resides within this vast cosmos.
Our task for today is to discuss the role of religion in maintaining positivity and helping our communities meet the many challenges of Covid 19, superimposed upon the reckoning of systemic racism in our nation and the world, the culture wars exacerbated by our political structure, the economic inequalities which condemn some to homelessness and others to deprivation, and perhaps most threatening, a disregard for the ecology of our planet, making it less hospitable to life as we have known it. It has been suggested that we also ask ourselves how religion helps us to answer that many questions about what we can be doing to ameliorate suffering, to console the grieving, and offer constructive actions amidst the turmoil. To be sure we recognize that the answers to these tasks require guidance from reason, faith, and the divine. We ask that we open our Kokoro, (bond by body and spirit), in search of these answers so that we can better serve our communities and be true to ourselves.”
This simple aspirational prayer is applicable to all of us. Many of us are confused and overwhelmed by so much that is happening in the last eight months or so. Our religious traditions are not intended to be ornaments that we wear around our wrist or display when it seems appropriate. One of the many roles of religion is to provide answers to the inexplicable, a way to approach the existential, a means to navigate the complexities of life, and a place to find solace when we are in need, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
We must all recognize that if we, that is you and I, are confused and overwhelmed, the same is true of other people. Our religious tradition informs us that this discontentedness and suffering is a condition which visits each and every person. Use the Buddhadharma teachings to assist you through this difficult time. Allow its wisdom to permeate your being and propagate peace and lovingkindness throughout our turbulent social and physical environment. If f ever there was a time for the Buddhist practice of compassion it is now. Extend lovingkindness and compassion first to yourself so that you can assist others, then extend that lovingkindness and compassion to all sentient beings, and to the earth itself. During this isolation be a light in the darkness to all.
Love and gassho . . . Monshin