May 13, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

A friend of mine asked me to write about what I miss most about the Land of Before. Although not a Biblical scholar by any stretch, during this time I feel like a Jew wandering in the wilderness before being led to Israel. As I try to get through each moment with grace and dignity, thinking back on the flesh pots of Egypt is not as helpful as staying in the present and planning for the Land of After.

I guess I’ve just never been much for nostalgia, that homesickness for a past that may never have existed. A couple months ago, we were swept up by pandemic currents and continue, dog-paddling survivors in the tide, keeping our heads above water and hoping for land at some point. With change as our new god, it’s hard to look back on the stability of before—we might miss something right this very minute.

Instead of recollection and regret, I’d much prefer to reflect on the insight and knowledge we’ve gained on this journey through Now.
1) Changing clothes has always been a matter of style and social norms, not cleanliness or smell. If I wear the same sweatshirt three days in a row, no one knows it but me.
2) The urge to stock up leads to poor decisions. For instance, I don’t much care for canned chili, except in a pinch, but as soon as I heard the phrase “stay-at-home order,” I bought 24 cans of chili. This should hold me well into the next life.
3) Norman Mailer said something like, “TV is for appearing on, not watching.” When it comes to screens in general, I’d amend that to, “Screens are for creating things on, not for looking at.” While many folks draw enjoyment from video screens, I gaze at them as passively as a cow, and retain exactly as much information.
4) Because I had just bought and moved into a house in mid-February, I’d ordered two cases of toilet paper and paper towels. Each time I use even a sheet of either, I feel lucky for myself and guilty about my riches.
5) A natural hermit, able to find meaningful activity at any time—naps CAN be meaningful—I’ve enjoyed structuring my days, except for the centrality of Zoom meetings, which are the human interaction equivalent of breathing through a straw—we get enough oxygen to stay awake, but not enough to relax and thrive.
6) I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my current life, not because it’s perfect, not because I’m rich and not because I’ve stopped aging and developed Benjamin Button disease, growing younger by the day. No, I’m grateful because I’ve got enough of everything I need—food, friends, family, shelter. I do hope these things are true for you as well (if they’re not, please call or write me and I’ll try to help or help you find help), and that you’ve managed to refill your gratitude reservoir on a daily basis.

Remember this, Friend. Remember this. Remember. This remember:

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith

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