Looking back at the “thing” that has consumed our country since last March or so, you can begin to discover some patterns to our national and community and even family behaviors. For example, when it all first began, the overwhelming sense among many was deep concern, some fear, maybe even some dread, and the need to “stay safe.” Schools, churches, restaurants, stores and more all shut down. We are still waiting to see if Elton John will eventually come to Fargo to honor the tickets we bought for our 39th anniversary. We stayed home, stayed apart, and we mostly did stay safe. Things ground to a halt.
Immediately on the heels of those feelings was the need to make sure we had what we needed to live, as though this were a nuclear bomb threat – so of course, toilet paper and eggs, and meat and all the rest began to be rationed. Neighbors and relatives would call or text to let you know where they scored the super-size package of Charmin, and to get over there asap. We still were going to stay safe, but we were going to do so in comfort.
Next, which is what I believe is simply a part of our American Spirit, we started to fill in our time with creative things. Jigsaw puzzles, tie dye paints, knitting yarn, and numbers of other hobbies and time-wasting items that many of us had stored in our closets and basements finally saw the light of day, and were put to use, probably because we started to get bored. Also, with no kids in school, many homes were becoming a bit – how do you say? – berserk with children boarded up inside.
So, as Spring, and then Summer came, as you looked out your window, you noticed couples taking a walk. Apparently, someone decided that if you were spending your life cooped up in the same house, it was okay to walk beside that someone, and not wear a mask. Also, I never realized we had so many dogs residing in our neighborhood! These were dogs that were quickly getting exhausted from being walked two or three times a day. There were reports of pets, when asked if they wanted to “go walky,” scampered under beds, just to be left alone.
One main area of life in CoVid that has gone through much transition has been the entire enterprise of preparing meals. It appears to have fractured into three separate streams: one, drive-through fast food places were still open, and that meant an easy food source. Granted, you had to try to order with masks on, or through plexiglass screens, but most of the time, you could end up with a Whopper Jr. or a Quarter Pounder just fine. Second stream saw the incredible increase in meal delivery options. Suddenly, it seemed almost every restaurant in the area was hooked up with Food Dudes or Grub Hub, or such, and for a slightly higher charge for a meal, and a delivery fee, and a tip, you could have a meal delivered right to your door for probably only about 30% more than what you would pay for in the very same restaurant. Still, it became a regularly used option. I cannot count the number of pizzas or Chinese food orders we have gotten in the last six months.
The final stream, of course, is the resurgence of home-cooked meals. Within the space of a few weeks, gourmet chefs were rising up in about every other home. Fancy meals, unique meals, complicated meals all entered the lives of so many folks who still have stayed home for the most part. Going to the grocery store was still a pain, with the ever-present masks, and trying to actually plan a week’s worth of meals, so you wouldn’t have to go back to the store until you actually had to.
Something happened, however, which was the logical next step in this pandemic cultural evolution. We got bored. It was kind of fun to stay inside and binge watch shows you always wanted to watch, while the snow was on the ground, but once it got nice and the weeks went by, and few if any people we knew personally actually got the virus, we started to “open up.” Not everywhere, which has been odd. Youth baseball leagues restarted, with spectators standing next to each other, unmasked, but restaurants and churches were expected to remain closed and properly distant, as though those particular activities promised to bring back the epidemic. People began to consider how to go “back to normal,” and talks of opening schools, and just have everyone wear a mask, and we will be ok became the touted option. The terrible thing about boredom is that it is a sedative, that makes us forget what is looming around the corner.
One area that has taken it on the chin with our cultural pandemic boredom is the making of nice, good home-cooked meals. It seemed that we pretty well used up any reasonable idea for supper, and being bored meant that we were also bored with our food. Chicken cordon bleu was reduced to “go find something in the fridge to eat tonight.” We also learned what foods might be tolerated by a member of the family once or twice, but if it came on the regular rotation, noses were stuck up, and frowns assembled even when “someone” worked very hard to make a home-cooked meal, and don’t be such a jerk about it. Suddenly, pot roasts and fish, and pork ribs and casseroles and anything with mushrooms in it were food non-grata.
So, we are still working on finding reasonable menu items. Tonight is chicken and rice. Not quite a casserole, and we will have to cross out the cream of mushroom soup, and the instant onion soup has MSG which will likely kill at least one member of the family, so things get complicated, and believe me, the mix of boredom and complication is a bad looking situation. I’ll spend a good part of the morning looking through cookbooks and on-line for how we can create the meal, since the chicken in thawed, and we are on that track. I just have to find the right recipe.
At the same time, perhaps it is important for us all to find the right recipe for this season. In our efforts to “stay safe,” does that mean we stop living? In our desire to do whatever we want, since we haven’t gotten sick after 6 months, how do we go back to school, back to college, back to work, back to eating out, back to ignoring danger signals, and still live happy and abundant lives? Perhaps it’s time for us to indeed move into the season of questions, where we intentionally first find the best question to ask, and then find the best answer that helps us move forward, not to normal, but to a new way of living. We just have discover the right recipe.
Word for the day: pistanthrophobia. Pronounced pist-anthro-PHO-bia. Actually, it’s kind of a sad word, because it means the fear (phobia) of trusting people, due to past experiences or relationships. You’ll find the root word, anthro, from which we get anthropology, or the study of humans – anthro means “human.” Also the fragment, “pist,” most likely from the Latin, pissere, which means to pound or stamp down. It’s often used in the description of a horse track that has been pounded nearly to stone from the running of horses over it. The word fragment suggests a lot of beating down. So, the word literally means “fear of getting beat down by other people.”
Unfortunately, a lot of internet and pop psychologists use the word normally to talk about young women, who have gone through one or a few different relationships with guys who would a century ago been called a “cad.” Nowadays, they are more likely predators, or just jerks. The assumption is that when these sweet young women come into a relationship with one of these jerks, they are abused and used and then dumped, and this creates the fear of trusting anyone new with one’s feelings or openness. I suppose that’s true, but it also happens to fellows, who are also taken advantage of and then strung along and unceremoniously dropped when she finds a new toy to play with.
Probably the best cure for pistanthrophobia is to heed the oracle at Delphi, part of Greek culture since 1400BC. The simple words were “Know Thyself.” The more intentional any human is about any relationship, and how careful they can know themselves as they move into that the relationship, the less likely they are to be abused, and then suffer the results of today’s sad word.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.