How to Socialize in a Pandemic: A Jubilant Message for a World in Flames
The year 2020 brought many questions to the table—one being how to socialize in a pandemic. That question might solicit feelings of Zoom fatigue and weariness of wearing masks once more. To put it lightly, since March 2020, the United States has experienced a general feeling of sustained melancholy. However, if you know anything about the history of that word—”melancholy”—you know it doesn’t have to mean “the worst of things.” Yes, the pandemic has brought feelings of anxiety and fear, and sadly delivered death and destruction to individuals and businesses alike. Some might refer to this world in flames with little to no nope. But the months and years ahead, and how culture responds to such a wave of disaster is where the other side of melancholy’s coin. For although bleak and uncertain times persist, that means hope for a clear and hopeful future might be yet around the corner.
Or, in the words of Harvey Dent, “night is darkest just before dawn.”
It’s easy to think of melancholy and Dent’s words, when considering the COVID-19 pandemic, and dream of a brighter decade ahead. The “New Roaring Twenties” some might say. Once we get over the hump of vaccines and masks and other variants and political unrest, we’re sure to experience greener pastures, yes? Maybe!
But what if the greener pastures were never meant to be confined to “a season of life.” After all, think of the original Roaring Twenties—greener post-war pastures for a season, only to experience depression and more war the next. Andy Crouch, in a recent article from The Praxis Journal, explains the New/Old Roaring Twenties dichotomy and responds with a word on not pending, post-pandemic jubilation. But something far more important for a world in flames to hear: what it means to convey Jubilee in all we say and do.
How to Socialize in a Pandemic with Jubilee and Grace
This is where our world stands—at a pivotal moment in history, and we get to decide the way forward.
Ten years of learning expedited in 12-months of growth, and the hope is that we’ve all garnered a greater understanding of empathy, sympathy, and compassion in the process. But if we think progress is contingent on a collective, political, or institutional agenda—we’re more likely to experience letdown time and again. Plunging us further into viewing humanity as mere actors amidst said world in flames. May we possess wisdom in the months and years ahead to not place our hope for deliverance in any governing body or group of “influencers” we give so much time and attention to. Instead, may we swing the pendulum in one of two directions: 1) on ourselves, and the personal growth we might experience in order to love our neighbor well, and 2) to something greater than ourselves that offers a transcendence beyond the powers of this world and the principalities of our age.
Let’s first look at a way for us to love one another without getting tossed in the ever changing winds of societal demands. A way that goes beyond turning a blind eye, and running straight for jubilation—as tempting as it may seem.
On Joy, Justification, and Jubilance
When we swing the pendulum from stagnancy and consumption to the left, may we pursue true joy in their place. Yet we must be careful in the process, for swinging beyond true joy might take us into joy for the moment—what we know as YOLO, “do you,” and weekend-warrior mentality. Joy, in the latter sense, might indeed carry us through the weekend. But what about the week, month, or year?
What might sustain our joy—a joy that doesn’t send us plundering back to the center of complacent, but takes hold of our hearts and encourages us to do everything to preserve it?
But we justify. We justify joy for joy’s sake, and seek comfort, happiness, and “fulfillment” because we’ve earned it. We work hard during the week, so we should receive pleasure during the weekend. “Pleasure” is one way to put it, “jubilation” is yet another.
“Beware of jubilation without Jubilee.”
Jubilation on its own is how one might explain the events in and throughout the 1920’s. Parties, drinking, socialization—just to name a few societal practices we’re experiencing now as we ask the question: how to socialize in a pandemic? Or, in other words, why mess with socializing in a pandemic, when we can sprint to jubilation just around the corner?
Jubilee, which Crouch recalls from the Biblical “Year of Jubilee,” was a time of forgiveness, freedom from debt, and an economical reset. Although it offers an entertaining conversation-starter, the idea isn't about how to bring a Year of Jubilee to society.
Instead, we might possess access to something that brings the Year of Jubilee to us.
Forgiveness Amid a World in Flames
If The Year of Jubilee, which occurred every 50 years, was a time of economical, emotional, and spiritual reset, may we not pursue such a Jubilee each morning we wake?
But how or who or what might give us access to such a way of living?
The world in flames is what we see and make of it, yes, but one’s response to it all is much more vital than the thing at hand—no matter how evil or inexplicable the things we read and see.
Justice will come in the form of greener pastures. It just might not be in a few years. And it might not be in a few decades, or maybe even millennia. But justice will roll in and through our streets and cities and nations as quickly as evil does today. Until then, may we swing the pendulum to the right, as well, and experience transcendence. Transcendence that might take us above our day-to-day struggle to define “What’s going on?”
How to socialize in a pandemic might be a result of a world in flames. Yet how to love our neighbor well is a result of the world yet to come. It’s something we must reverse engineer to experience in the present.For if one day all things will be made right—debts forgiven, wrongs made right, and justice upheld—we may not need to wait to show others a glimpse of what such Jubilee might entail.