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Marooned voyagers becoming poets, sages

Behold that photo of him, walking alone on the deserted cobblestone streets of Rome, a slight figure dwarfed by the massive weight of the centuries around him, a drizzle falling gently on him, at eventide.

How apt and timely for Pope Francis to use for his special Urbi et Orbi message last Friday the Bible scene of Jesus soundly asleep at the stern while a tempest was about to wreck the boat to smithereens and his disciples were petrified with fear. The Pope came out with it way ahead of Easter because of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe.

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“When evening had come (Mk 4:35),” he began.

Excerpts: “For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by… We find ourselves afraid and lost.

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“Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us.

“Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying ‘We are perishing’ (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.”

Never have the words “lonely planet” (title of an off-the-beaten-track TV travel show) rang so true than now while a pandemic is upon us. Imagine Earth as a ship listing by its lonesome. We are the voyagers aboard, sick and forlorn, marooned in a vast ocean.

Though unaccustomed to silence and solitude, many people suddenly find themselves getting used to the impositions, unleashing their creative juices and surfacing heretofore dormant talents.

But there is no silence and stillness online. Besides the legit news and how-not-to-get-COVID-19 advice, being posted, too, is a tsunami of admonitions, meditations, reflections, witticisms, DIY instructions, homilies, feel-good memes, chain prayers, Bible verses, family video clips. Many righteously angry and defiant because…

No food porn, I plead, while we have in our midst hungry multitudes.

How many have turned sages overnight because of this Goliath microbe but, yes, netizens are drinking it all in, sharing the wisdom, the newfound sparks of genius and creativity. (Just now, someone shared another God-and-me cutesy dialogue meant for those who think they are falling apart.)

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For a week now, I have been posting one photo a day of flowers and fruits from my urban garden, with the caption: “To those who had fought, to those who continue to fight that others may live: We are grateful beyond words. Lord, have mercy. (Date).” Will continue posting until…

Don’t laugh now but I have been trying to muster even just half of Bach’s Prelude in C, but first I had to watch the instruction-demo of piano prodigy Lang Lang. I hope it will be good enough to honor our pandemic heroes.

The poets are having a field day — even the trying-hard ones, but it does not matter. Kitty O’Meara became the “poet laureate of the pandemic” after her prose-poem went viral. Her first line: “And the people stayed home.”

Jesuit priest-poet Albert Alejo translated into Filipino the poem “Lockdown” by Capuchin Franciscan Brother Richard Hendrick. Excerpts:

“…So we pray and we remember that/ Yes there is fear./ But there does not have to be hate./ Yes there is isolation./ But there does not have to be loneliness./ Yes there is panic buying./But there does not have to be meanness./ Yes there is sickness./ But there does not have to be disease of the soul./ Yes there is even death./ But there can always be rebirth of love./ Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now./ Today, breathe./

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic/ The birds are singing again/ The sky is clearing./ Spring is coming./ And we are always encompassed by Love./ Open the windows of your soul/ And though you may not be able/ to touch across the empty square,/ Sing.”

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