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  • Mj Pettengill

No Reality


Clouds, Sky, Magical, CCO

So, how are you doing? That is the question du jour—one of the first things to ask and be asked. During this time, reaching out and being checked on is essential. However, what is our reference point? How can we actually know how we are doing when there is no instruction booklet entitled, Global Pandemic Response 101?

Of course, we can thumb through the history books and try to make sense of similar events that came before us, even though we were not there to assess the situation. Most of us are aware of the lack of good note-taking. If it weren’t for such inconsistencies in historical record-keeping, I wouldn’t be focused on my subject matter and writing. Backpedaling through history is what I do. It’s like being in the present, which source do you choose for information? I trust the word of the common folk over and above all else.

We are inclined to review other pandemics in time that surged around the globe, not quite striking all of humanity at once, even missing pockets of the population. Where do we go from here?

There are no easy answers. Living a creative life in solitude, in the woods, stream-side, in my studio, and mostly in my head, is the status quo. However, I’m still very much in attendance on this planet. I have not thoroughly checked out. I have family, friends, and loved ones to consider. I am aware of the ground in which we stand upon completely vanishing. I am connected to the systems that keep everything in place, or so we thought. In our own unique ways, we all are.

At first, after the initial shock subsided, I viewed this as a grand opportunity. I believed that in our separateness, we would find unity, a higher purpose, answers to questions previously ignored or unknown, until, the likes of an unsolicited salesperson, pounded on our collective door.

I learned quickly that other than dribbles and drabs, watching the news is a definite mistake. We witnessed the unraveling of our voting process—democracy spiraling out of control—while facing the ultimate conflict of who is in charge from top to bottom. 

Do we trust the President? Or, do we believe the medical experts? Does the power come from the top, or is it in the hands of the state? Is it safe, or is it deadly? Should we even consider the unimaginable sacrificing of a few for the economy? Or do we unite and make a decision for all? Do we get why we don’t have what we need in the event of an emergency? What on earth are we doing?

In the meantime, we are shown maps, graphs, and charts indicating that the planet is recovering in leaps and bounds. Praise be, Our Mother is Healing! Air quality, animal habitats, and the oceans are showing signs of rapid improvement. What does that mean? Will you pay attention? Or are we too driven to get back to normal?

Do we cheer for Our Mother or cry for humanity?

It is obvious to see that our norm is universally deadly. Just when I thought that we were possibly going to join forces and make decisions for the greater good, we have civil disobedience. Please, don’t get me wrong. Being a fan of Howard Zinn and Thoreau, to name a few, I believe in the power of civil disobedience. It is what America is about. But this is swirling in so many directions. We must get out of our own heads and think this through. When in the forefront, anger makes us forget and later regret.

However, it is the root of these divisions that leaves me in a state of grave concern. Amid such clear and present chaos, people do what they are programmed to do. They choose sides. Point fingers. Scream. Stop listening. They escalate.

Do you believe that all of this is a hoax? —Some sort of plan to take away our rights? Or, are you thinking that we need to take precautions and stop the spread of this virus? There are a few lines of thought here. Depending on your sources and general approach to events, you might have an answer. But, since the clashes are at the very top, the answer remains. There is no answer—not yet.

I hadn’t been to the grocery store for a while, several weeks. I decided to buy a lot of food the last time I went, and I live on a farm with a great deal of produce put up from previous seasons. What a difference there was in the store in such a short time.

When I went before, people were not yet wearing masks. There were a few. I wore a bandana at that point and gloves. People looked at me strangely, like I was either sick or overreacting. 

Now, many people are wearing masks and gloves. Then some are not. There is a feeling that either you’re in this thing, or you’re not. You are a wuss, being manipulated by the government, or you are smarter than that and don’t fall for it. 

I’m on the fence. I ask the usual questions, aren’t more people dying of the flu, hunger, car accidents? And then I catch sight of the bodies being buried in the makeshift graves in NYC because they are unclaimed or funeral homes can’t take them on. I read about families who cannot be with their loved ones as they take their last breath in the hospital. Then, before surrendering to the conspiracy theories, I think, what if I’m wrong? I cannot make that mistake. However, not believing in the governing bodies has become the norm. Lies and scandals are thrown in our faces to the point where we are desensitized. There you have it.

Where do we draw the line when dealing with what feels like infinite unknowns? What I do know is that the information that the public is getting is conflicting. In one breath, the President is saying that we will be fine and should ease restrictions. Oh, but wait, we need more time, but not too much time. We must get the economy rolling again, so let’s do this. Uh oh, it looks like Georgia is flying in the face of danger, and the President warns them not to go too fast.

The headlines on my phone randomly highlight states’ plans to return to pre-corona life, while at the same time, exclaiming how deadly it is going to be. We are expected to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at the same time, are aware of more death and destruction than we could have dreamed of, waiting to pounce on us in the coming seasons.

Who do we trust? Who don’t we trust? The lyrics, should I stay, or should I go, come to mind. I sing a lot. That and, it’s the end of the world as we know it. Sometimes I find myself unconsciously humming one of those tunes. I never did until now. Another question, did their sales go up?

My conclusion is that until I have a better sense of the truth, and I trust that it is out there, I will treat it as a real threat. This is potentially perilous to all people. It may not seem so to the young and healthy, and we can get it and get over it and move on. But there are folks whose immune systems are compromised and will ultimately be laid to the grave should they contract this virus. It feels much like roulette.

The reality is, there is no reality. We do not know what the answers are. All politics aside, we cannot have faith in the consistency of leadership, when it does not exist. We have been lied to before, and that is not up for debate. 

Back into the cave, the proverbial womb we went. Not everyone knows about birth, and for a good reason. Of course, if you have not given birth, then you can only imagine. And, unless you are brought back through dreams or hypnosis, your memories of being in the womb and being born are not present.

Birth is messy. It is uncertain at times, and unless you are given anesthetics, you, as the one giving birth, experience intense labor pains. As for being in the womb, we know it is dark, warm, and secure.

The unborn do sense what is going on, not only with Mother but the outside world. A fetus can also experience trauma. This trauma may remain in the unconscious for an entire lifetime, manifesting in dreams or specific fears and phobias. There are ways to unlock this.

What we have here and now is the time of gestation. We have been forced back in, and until the time is right, we will not be birthed. We can try to induce labor, return to the outer world prematurely. We just do not know what the outcome will be.

Then again, birth is a beautiful thing—a miracle. With maternal love, nourishment, and secured in place, we know when to surrender. We follow our instincts. When we are delivered, we trust that the time is right.

Until then, I’ll pay attention to my dreams, lingering at the mouth of the cave, looking out, waiting for the mist to vanish. I will accept that nothing stays the same, even big things shift. I will continue to walk, taking a few steps at a time, careful not to run. I will root deeply and gather herbs from the wild-lands, consulting with feathered and furry ones, knowing when to take shelter.

I miss my children deeply. 

I remember to pray:

 May we find the common-place, the void in-between our differences. 

 May we be willing to dwell there for as long as it takes for us to awaken. 

 May we come to know our stories.

 May we choose the miracle of life, the power of compassion, and the trust of each other.

May the only hunger that we know, be that of embracing the new and leaving the old behind.


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