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Rashid V. Robinson

How am I? Like most, frightened, hopeful. All the feels in half the time. But also thinking. Thinking that this crisis isn’t only about a pandemic, it’s a crisis around our way of understanding ourselves, of meaning making. We are all reliving that moment in early adulthood where we were sitting around in a circle, with whom we presumed were a bunch of friends, loosely chatting about the forever present that was the horizon of our lives. Going back and forth from childhood traumas to sexual innuendos to which bar has the best drink specials when THE TOPIC comes up, and somebody says something that makes us all pause, a shiny object suddenly discovered at the bottom of our carelessly sifted pan. It gets quiet for a second, and someone asks what could pass as a clarifying question but is really their indirect way of saying, “Do you really believe that?” And of course they believe it, because they said it, and they look around the circle to see who agrees with them. And some of us meet their gaze, and some of us look for answers in the other faces of those we are drawn to, and some of us look down, and for a moment all that can be heard is the swish of beer bottles being drained in a single swig, or a log popping in the fire, or the song ending on the radio; whatever soundtrack there was to the evening, now signaling that it’s time to go. Then someone says they have to get up early, and we shrug, and rise, and move away from each other. Years later, we will understand that as the moment things changed.

We are back there again, today, sitting in that dreadfully familiar circle, facing our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and lovers and our endless hopes for our children. We are each taking our turns, speaking not only as medical professionals, or economists, or politicians, but also as philosophers, philosophers each and every one of us, talking into that circle about how we understand the narrow and broad definitions of life and death. We are saying something; we are looking into the faces of others for recognition; we are looking down; and after an interval, some of us are quietly moving on. But we know something will be changed, that we will be separate and together now in ways different than before, and unsatisfied as we were with the past, we rail against its loss, and the lifetime of mourning that is sure to follow.

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