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Pandemic 10 Commandments — Day 18 of 40 Days of Listening

(A photo Mike took in 2016 on Mt Sinai above St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt)

There is this ancient story that gets told this time of year by Jews and Christians alike. It’s the story of the Israelite’s exodus from exploitation in Egypt.

Moses and Aaron and Miriam lead the people out of slavery after a series of plagues (think climate collapse and pandemic) bring the entire Egyptian economy and way of life to a halt.

It’s a story of suffering. Israel, the exploited ones, suffer under the oppressor’s endless hunger for more. The oppressors suffer, both from the plagues, and from the disruption to their way of life — one built upon another’s exploitation.

The suffering doesn’t end there either. The Israelites leave the familiar discomfort of Egypt for the unfamiliar discomfort of the wilderness. Their way of life, too, has been disrupted. And now, amidst this chaos and confusion, they must figure out how to be community again. How are they going to do this human thing?

Is this sounding familiar?

What does your wilderness sound like right now?

How is my restaurant going to survive this?
How are we going to take care of the kids and work?
How am I going to wipe without toilet paper?
How is the rent going to get paid?
What will I do, my retirement is gone?
My grandma is sick.
I’m scared.

It’s okay to be afraid and confused. It’s okay to not have the answers. But we cannot let that fear turn to panic, or scapegoating, or ignorant and destructive bliss. And most of all, we cannot let that fear lead to isolation (even on the tribal level).

The wilderness we’re entering is not to be traveled alone.

The wilderness we’re entering is a place of suffering and loss. But as a community (micro & macro) of honesty and care, trust and compassion — with reliance on something greater than our individual selves — this wilderness can also become a place of healing and possibility.

For Israel, help came through their higher power, Yahweh. It came in the gift of the law — the 10 Commandments — which were instructions to dislocated peoples in a chaotic post-pandemic space on how to do the human thing well.

Here’s kind of what some of it sounded like:

Don’t play god — putting yourself before everything else. Or, worse, believing you can (and are responsible for) fixing it all.

Rest, for God’s sake! What the hell are you doing working 60 hour weeks? And what’s up with these “efficiency and productivity measures,” Pharaoh, I mean Mr. CEO? And the measly paid-time-off and family leave stuff… Seriously. What are we doing! (BTW — Lock down is an unsolicited Sabbath to wake our *&$%@ up to how ridiculous this individualist-materialistic-exploitative economy/way of life has become.)

Take care of the older folks. For gosh sakes, stop being stubborn and getting together and later infecting grandma!

Don’t kill people, or spend all your time on social media blaming them for all the problems.

Stop stealing, or worse, hoarding toilet paper. I mean, seriously, how are other people going to wipe?

Even if your friend is calling this a hoax, don’t gossip or trash his name. Show care and concern, while keeping good boundaries — aka — don’t add to the DRAMA!

Don’t covet your neighbors house (i.e., Don’t start drooling about how the housing market might open up because of another person’s troubles. That’s like pandgemtrification or something).

All joking aside, we are entering a wilderness. And entering the wilderness is part of this human thing. Let’s come out of this wilderness radically different than we entered it.

Tomorrow, we’ll share some questions and practical ideas for navigating this wilderness time so that it can become for us a revolution of compassion.

In the meantime, hear this.

The Exodus story begins with this call to adventure for Moses. He’s at the burning bush, and Yahweh calls out to him saying, “I’ve heard the cry of my people… I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them…and to bring them…to a good and broad land.”

Yahweh — this divine mysterious “I am who I am becoming” — then goes on to tell Moses that he is part of how Yahweh is going to deliver the people.

I.e., The divine, or love, or whatever this mystery is, it works through you and me. We get to deliver one another through care. We get to speak our sufferings so they may be heard and responded to. And we get to do all of this together.



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