I stepped out on my balcony this morning with a quizzical sense of change-in-process. In this second half of the year of pandemic – our 7th month of a shared world experience – people are talking about returning to the “old normal”. Or wondering what will be the “new normal”.
My sense is that we are on the tightrope suspended between the two – in fact it is the trapeze wire made famous by Danaan Parry’s essay “Transformation of Fear” converted to song by Fran McKendree https://franmckendree.com/album/1438696/the-parable-of-the-trapeze-or-the-fear-of-transformation. Perry says:
“Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life.
I know most of the right questions and even some of the answers.
But every once in a while as I’m merrily (or even not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.
Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one.” (1)
I look out from my balcony and I see not one – but several trapeze bars suspended in the air before me – with no landing spot ahead for me.
I observe the bars have names on them – they are the list of what I am noticing is not “normal” from just last year. Yet they are not deemed “abnormal” by any standardizing measures. Nor are they yet a “new normal”.
So, I have made a new category – the “un-normal”. These are the in-between spaces – the circumstances that people are remarking as strange – because they don’t feel normal; curious – because we are not certain if they are passing experiences or are they here to stay?; unrelenting – because we just can’t stop watching; weird – because people seem willing to try anything; exasperating – because authorities keep changing their minds; dangerous – because we seem to have lost touch with the value of life.
So here are my nominations for life that is SCUWED:
Strange: Emperor has no clothes is widespread phenomenon – White men in power reveal their vulnerability publicly, apparently believing they have some innate immunity to biology that is no respecter of human hierarchies.
Curious: Heroes are not what they used to be – Greta Thunberg captures the media’s attention with her message to “listen to the science” but refuses to play by their rules of “normal” heroism.
Unrelenting: Addictive feedback endlessly loops – Reports on the covid statistics – daily, hourly, by country, diagnosed, tested, recovered, died.
Weird: No safety in no symptoms – Asymptomatic carriers can suffer severe brain damage.
Exasperating: Every day some authority changes its mind – Releasing or tightening lockdown rules; Reinterpreting covid R factor; Face masks worn or not? Quarantine constraints. Travel restrictions. Pubs open or closed. Public gatherings (dis)allowed.
Dangerous: VUCA world is normal world – Volatile news; Uncertain authority; Complex interactions are no respecter of borders; Ambiguous futures for youth.
In such a SCUWED world, I look for some “normal” comfort that we might survive. Will the wisdom of the Fear of Transformation prevail even in these times?
“… transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang out” in the transition between trapezes. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly.” (2)
I am curious – what would you nominate as evidence of our SCUWED world? How do you recognize Perry’s image of change in the void as the world we inhabit right now? Can you believe we will catch these trapeze bars and find the landing spot on the other side of “un-normal”? Will we learn to fly?
Notes Approval is Pending for Use of these quotes:
(1), (2) From the book Warriors of the Heart by Danaan Parry.
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