Tuesday, February 28, 2023

#59 / Up To Me


"I used to think that we lived in a society, and I thought that people would come together to take care of one another, and I don't think that anymore."
The statement above, and the picture with it, come from a New York Times Magazine article, "What Happened To Us?" The article, featured on the cover of the February 26, 2023, edition of the magazine, is by Jon Mooallem, with photographs by Ashley Gilbertson. The article reports on an extraordinary oral history project, documenting the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic in New York City. It is very much worth reading. 
The despairing conclusion, featured in the epigraph, is not the only message that comes from those who experienced the pandemic in New York City. However, the statement I have featured is not an outlier, either. In many ways, the pandemic seems to have discouraged those who have lived through it - to the extent that we can say that we are, actually, "through" with the pandemic. In California, our Governor has said, "it's over." President Biden has said that, too. Mooallem's article suggests that it may be quite some time before it's really "over," and we return to the status quo ante, if we ever do. 

Reading the article, with the powerful photos that accompanied it, put a Bob Dylan song into my mind. That is, of course, nothing new for me. If you would like to listen to "Up To Me," you can click on the YouTube link below. Click on the link to the title of the song to read the lyrics.

The statement in the epigraph, from the person who formerly thought that we "lived in a society," struck me this way: When someone says that he or she "thought" that we lived in a society (past tense) in which people are supposed to "take care of one another," the lesson I take is that the person who said that has been conceptualizing that our "society" is something that exists independently of his or her own, individual, action and activity. 
But that's not exactly right. WE are the society, and if we have assumed that others should be taking action, when action is needed, we need to be asking these questions, first: "What am I doing?" "What have I been doing?" I think the first verse of Dylan's song makes our real situation clear:

Everything went from bad to worse, money never changed a thing
Death kept followin’, trackin’ us down, at least I heard your bluebird sing
Now somebody’s got to show their hand, time is an enemy
I know you’re long gone, I guess it must be up to me
When we face adversity, or possibility (and in fact at every moment, in every part of our lives) it is up to "me;" it's up to "us." We're in this together, and we are "actors," not just "observers." Whatever death-dealing realities are tracking us down, the "society" we hope for, to save us and sustain us, begins with our own action.


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