Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Lost at Sea

Lost at Sea
“Sheltering in place,” sounds so safe and comforting, homebound with a good book, food in the fridge.
But life in this COVID-19 world feels more like being lost at sea in a stormy fog.  Wet danger is everywhere.  We’re not sure where we are, what’s next, or if rescue is coming.  And what about the others in this lifeboat?
Because I experience power and possibility in the ocean, as well as metaphors galore, here’s some Blue Theology (ocean spirituality and stewardship) for this pandemic:
-NY Gov. Cuomo on whether we can “flatten the curve of this disease;” “I don’t see a curve; I see a wave. And the wave is going to break on the health care system, and I am telling you, it is going to be a tsunami.

-The fogbound feeling, for me, and our world, comes from this agonizing uncertainty and ever changing news and plans.  I first heard the phrase “Fog of War” in the film about Robert McNamara and the Vietnam War (check out his “lessons learned.”)   But “fog of war” is a century old military term meaning “uncertainty or ignorance about one’s own capability and that of one’s adversary.  In a fog of war commanders don’t know the real strength and position not only of their foes, but also of their friends.”

-Friends and foes.  As a Christian I try not to divide folks into friend or foe, we’re all in this together, and all children of God.  The Body of Christ has the coronavirus.  When one suffers all suffer. 

-But I am reminded of “lifeboat ethics,” ecologist Garret Hardin’s profound metaphor, from the 1970’s, about how to decide who gets what in this overpopulated, finite and highly fractured world.  He rejected a previous popular metaphor, “Spaceship Earth,” since it implied one commander and a common destination.  No, he said, the rich nations are like a lifeboat floundering at sea with 50 passengers and room for 10 more.  The many desperate swimmers in the ocean are the poor nations.  (I read this then new exciting book in ethics class in seminary.) Who survives?  Who chooses?  By what criteria?

-Well, we clearly don’t have a commander who knows where we are going or what to do (or, like captains of ships, or the ship of state, knows to put the passengers first, to go down with the ship.)

-Where am I, are we, in that image?  On the boat, in the waves?  We hope, in the way that ships traditionally saved women and children first, that we will try today to take extra precautions so the vulnerable elderly and chronically ill might be safe. But…..

-I pondered writing a comforting Blue Theology “Tide-ing” post during this challenging week, something about cool sea creatures. Worried about the future?  Check out this fabulous jelly fish.  I do commend ocean videos as stress reducers – so many doctors have aquariums in their offices because looking at them literally lowers our blood pressure.  Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium website; even though closed, they still have their live cams of penguins, otters, kelp forest, jellies.  Also, on their Facebook Page every morning M-F at 8 Pacific Time, the Aquarium is offering 10 minutes of what they call a “Medit-ocean,” mindful images of ocean calm and beauty.

-I called this post “Lost at Sea.” Which doesn’t just mean literally lost.  It also means dead, died at sea.  The tsunami will only get larger.  What to do?  Build more boats?  Hold on to the side of the boat?  Pull others into the boat?  Who knows where this foggy storm will take us?  It’s a big scary ocean out there.

I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.

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