This month’s blog is by BPS member, Fj Doucet
In a normal year—which is to say, any other year in living memory—May marks the beginning of spring, and we Canadians begin emerging from a long winter’s hibernation. In a normal year, the parks and cafés would already be full, the dark nights turning to almost miraculously clear blue days. But everyone knows that this not a normal year. We remain trapped—suspended — in the coronavirus pandemic, that oddly poetic moniker for a disease that has killed a quarter of a million people to date. As a result, parks are blocked off. Shops are still shuttered. Businesses, even international companies, have been forced to shut down, some forever. And though our feet and minds have grown almost unbearably restless, our orders from on high remain the same — avoid gatherings. Stay inside.
I cannot speak for everyone, but personally the longer the crisis continues, the more difficult I find it to connect with the sense of urgency that was impressed upon us two months ago. Especially now as the weather turns warmer, and we fail to find apocalyptic debris littering the streets, the urge to simply step outside and play has grown almost irresistible. From the appearance of neat avenues and clear sunshine, it seems that the world has not changed at all.
But I must remember that it has. That it is only through an enormous collective effort that we have avoided far more catastrophic losses. And there is no better reminder of this than the simultaneous occurrence of another invisible, yet powerful event. Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, began at the end of April and will run through most of May. During this time, Muslims fast from sunrise—about four-thirty in the morning—until sunset — close to eight-thirty at night. During these sixteen hours, Muslims take neither food nor drink, not even water. It is one of the foremost commands of the religion, and in this state of abstinence the faithful are meant to focus more intently on the active practice of worship. Far from merely staying inside to wait away the hours until sustenance is permitted again, these hours are one of intense mental striving, a full work-day in the pursuit of God’s blessing.
Although on the surface the world has remained the same, Ramadan has deeply altered the worshipper’s universe —and so too especially with our pandemic lock down. Yet the world seems to have changed little. Time moves forward. There are no chains upon us. The trees still grow and the flowers are blooming. And yet by staying inside we are not merely sitting and waiting for the government to give us the nod to go back to work— no, we are working now. By remaining focused and strong, by staying home even through the temptation to break our solitude—our fast—we are actively shaping the disease-free world we seek, just as this month Muslims are actively working for the blessings they desire.
So, let us count our blessings, and perhaps we might even use our solitude to write a poem or two.
Poets born in May:
Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882
Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882
Adrienne Rich 1929-2012