I am an old-school calendar guy. While I do use an Outlook calendar, my default calendar is a monthly planner. I use a color-coding system to write events on the calendar and tasks on the “Notes” column on the side.
I am looking at my December 2021 calendar. It has been shot to hell by cancellations and changes of plans. There appears to be more Wite-Out and cross out than intact scribbling that has survived. I provide a picture here. This is classified information so do not share it with anyone, OK?
This is our reality these days. The one thing you can count on is that you can’t count on anything except COVID.
Check out the Dec. 18 entry. Jeanie and I were going to go to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for their grand performance of Handel’s “Messiah.” We got there, showed our vaccination cards, showed our IDs, and got into the building.
I had been feeling puny on Friday morning, Dec. 17: a bit of a sore throat, a cough, a few sneezes, aches and pains, unusual fatigue, but nothing big. I have regularly felt sicker than that.
It was not enough to make me think we should pass on going to the expensive, glorious symphony for which we had tickets. So we went.
Fortunately, Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center also had a little COVID testing operation going at the entrance. I don’t know that it was required of anybody, but it was available. Once we got into the building, and I had a chance to sit down for about 15 minutes, I thought to myself that maybe I should take advantage of the testing availability (with no line; charging $35) just on the off chance that it might show up positive.
I went back outside, paid my money, and got my rapid test. They called within 10 minutes to tell me I had tested positive. They immediately administered a second test for confirmation; that one also came back positive. They threw in a free test for my wife, who came up negative. But that was it for us — we had to go home. An Arts Center person scanned our tickets and promised a refund, which was kind.
“January’s calendar will show more Wite-Out than pen, once again.”
But that particular plan was off. And because I had to isolate for 10 days, the planned visit for Christmas of our beloved grandchildren was off, as were all normal Christmas Eve and Christmas Day plans. And because we decided to move the grandkids’ visit back, our twice-delayed romantic getaway Vermont vacation of Dec. 28-Jan. 2 was off.
In the new year, I am supposed to go to the Society of Christian Ethics from Jan. 6-9 in Southern California. I am on the program and planning to go — but two-thirds expecting to hear news of a cancellation.
I was going to be inaugurated at the Free University Amsterdam on Jan. 27, giving a big speech. That is 99.9% likely to be off. This is our second cancelled trip to Amsterdam in the last four months.
January’s calendar will show more Wite-Out than pen, once again.
For decades, Jeanie and I have looked forward to writing New Year’s resolutions late every December. I know it’s a very Myers-Briggs “J” thing to do, but we have found it a really helpful goal-setting and life-organizing exercise.
This year, for the first time since young adulthood, I might pass on New Year’s resolutions. Why bother? You can’t plan for anything. And “survive,” “try not to get or give COVID (again),” “get through each day,” and “expect the unexpected” are not exactly golden nuggets of inspiration.
“This year, for the first time since young adulthood, I might pass on New Year’s resolutions. Why bother?”
But, more seriously, I will say this: I believe that pretty much all public institutions, which human communities have built up over many generations, have been damaged by two full years of COVID: education, publishing, government, business, sports, the NGO sector, the arts, entertainment, and of course religious institutions. This is not to mention the toll on individuals and families.
Somehow, once again, for the fifth COVID semester, I will attempt to offer education to students at Mercer University. I will supervise doctoral students for Free University Amsterdam, the school I keep not being allowed to visit. I will do some podcasts. I will talk up a new book that is just now entering the world. I will (try to) attend the two churches with which I am affiliated and seek to serve where there are possibilities and needs.
So maybe here is my New Year’s Resolution: I will do my small part each day to keep human civilization alive until this pandemic is over.
OK, that’s about it. Gotta go and set up the Zoom sessions for my online spring course. Because, well, that’s what we do now. Happy New Year, everyone.
David P. Gushee is a leading Christian ethicist. He serves as Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and is the past president of both The American Academy of Religion and The Society of Christian Ethics. He’s the author of Kingdom Ethics, After Evangelicalism, and Changing Our Mind: The Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians. He and his wife, Jeanie, live in Atlanta. Learn more: davidpgushee.com or Facebook.
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