So this past Sunday was Palm Sunday and I felt myself turning to thoughts of spirituality in these troubled times. Not risking leaving my apartment in search of stray fronds, I decided to improvise. There were two candidates if I loosely defined my requirements as a potted plant I was capable of carrying. Both are favorites of my wife Jean, who is hunkered down in Texas. There is an orchid, by definition delicate. I knew better than even risk breathing on it too heavily. And then there was another green plant of moderate size. So I picked it up and walked around the apartment, but fearing a slippery-handed accident I put it down after a few tours around the living room. I considered it mission accomplished.
We are at a time of year when meaningful holidays on many religious calendars coincide with what usually is the optimism of spring. (And by religious observances I don’t mean Opening Day of the baseball season, although…) This week, we see Passover and Easter Sunday. Later in the month is Ramadan. I am less familiar with the religious traditions than these three in this time of year, so please educate me in the comments section below.
Normally, this is a time for joyous family gatherings. Video chatting will be a substitute, poor by normal standards, but a necessary blessing considering the challenges of our current crisis. We are planning our family’s as we speak, doing some test runs this week.
The role of religion in a time of a pandemic has become a bit of a flashpoint, as some political officials and religious leaders have eschewed the recommendations of doctors and other scientists in favor of mass gatherings at houses of worship. This is dangerous and irresponsible. Religion and science cannot compete for what is the right guidance to keep our bodies healthy. Most people who consider themselves religious understand that. But when it comes to the health of the mind and the soul, we need to each find our own path. For me, religion is giving me meaning, a pause from the drumbeats of news, moments of reflection into how others have confronted mortality and pain and suffering.
To all who will be celebrating in the days and weeks ahead, I wish you as much health and happiness as these times can provide. To all the others, I wish you the same. Whether you find peace in religious texts, prayer, poetry, music, art, or any of the other fountains of human intellectual and spiritual nourishment, please find the time and space to take in that which reminds you that there has been beauty and purpose in the world, there still is, and there yet will be.