It’s hard to believe that only two weeks ago, today, Brooklyn identified its first two COVID-19 cases. Now, to prevent further outbreak, all of New York City is to remain at home. We are an epicenter of a global pandemic. Two weeks seem now so long ago. It seems like a different, unrecoverable time entirely. The virus can take up to two weeks to show symptoms. Where were we two weeks ago? Who were we?
Writing about time can be disorienting. I experience it even as I write this now. My words teeter dangerously on abstraction, esoteric concepts, and jargon that do little for anyone. Instead, I need to concentrate on what is happening to us, happening among us.
What happens when our memory, individual and collective, is disrupted by the disruption of time? Is this what breeds nostalgia or amnesia or a forgetting of those most vulnerable, of those most in need? Perhaps. I think such disruptions reorient us toward other kinds of time, as well.
Desire is a kind of plotting of time. We cast forth what we seek and where it lands, well, we work out what to do within the length of time until we reach it. We desire things to happen at a certain time. The Greek kind of time “kairos” is about the fullness of time, opportune time. And this theological “kairotic” time is our observation of when God acts in the fullness of time. In our event of crisis, we desire God not just to act, but we desire to see God act. We become anxious when we do not see what we want.
At this point, it is difficult to see anything in the future except the spread of infection. We must be careful in our treatment of our expectations as much as in our self-preservation and in the lives of our neighbors. We live in difficult times. We must not make things more difficult than they already are. Immediately, we must take care of and support each other as best we can, as safely as we can. It has been time to act. But how best to act when?
“The time is out of joint,” says Hamlet. So, too, is ours. As we retreat into our homes, our internal clocks wobble. Personal and professional calendars fray, as well as nerves. Time stretches and becomes tenuous. There will seem no end to this. Even as we occupy ourselves, our routines are tremendously uprooted and derailed. We require new understandings of time to gain our bearings, to move forward.
We watch helplessly as disease evades us. It seems the only thing we can recover immediately, with no time to lose, is the ability to carefully consider how now we shall live, because our lives depend on it. In our desire to see the Hand of God act, it we who must act as God’s hands in love and in time.