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A Listening Care Package for Uncertain Times

A collection of podcasts and poetry for however you’re processing or experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meaning of the Inuit word “qarrtsiluni” conjures up a striking image: “sitting together in the dark, waiting for something to happen.” Teju Cole shares the word in his On Being conversation, and it’s been increasingly resonant in the months and weeks since COVID-19 began affecting communities across the world. The pandemic has exposed how interconnected and interdependent we are as humans. Everyday practices, like handwashing and covering our sneezes, have become the most basic duty we owe to friends and strangers alike. And we’re finding thoughtful ways to care for one another amidst the tumult.

With the situation changing shape daily, the shadow of uncertainty can feel long and looming and even lonely. Whether you’re particularly vulnerable to the virus or feel helpless for loved ones who are; affected financially or are under pressure to weigh your finances against your own health; or are experiencing some cognitive dissonance as you watch the news develop, our thoughts are with you.

This week the On Being Project team started working remotely to do our part to slow the spread of the virus. We’re recognizing that another thing we can do is continue offering up content that nourishes and accompanies. Our curated Starting Points “For the Exhausted and Overwhelmed” and “Poetry for Tumultuous Times” gather conversations and verse to help you meet difficult moments like this one. And we’ve also collected a care package of sorts below (also available on Spotify), with podcasts that speak to what you might be going through right now:

  • For those yearning for some levity, Ross Gay reminds us that joy and delight are exactly the balm we must offer ourselves in difficult times. “Joy [is] the labor that will make the life that I want possible,” he says. “It is not at all puzzling to me that joy is possible in the midst of difficulty.” To choose to soften to delight, despite any heaviness looming in the air, is to keep ourselves afloat. And if your experience with social distancing feels as monotonous as the endlessly repeating day in the movie Groundhog Day, Naomi Alderman shares with good humor a practice for savoring the routines we come to take for granted.
  • For those who feel helpless or burnt out by the ceaseless news updates, Joan Halifax’s wisdom is to make space for rest and respite in the face of overwhelming events. “When we are more stabilized, then we can face the world with more buoyancy. We have more resilience,” she says.
  • For those feeling a more tenuous grief around the next few months, Pauline Boss’s work on ambiguous loss and the illusion of closure may be comforting to hear. “There is no such thing as closure,” she says. “We have to live with loss, clear or ambiguous. And it’s OK.” You may also find solace in Joy Harjo’s poetry — to “Praise crazy. Praise sad. / Praise the path on which we’re led.”
  • For those practicing hope, Rebecca Solnit’s wisdom may provide some perspective. “Hope, for me, just means … coming to terms with the fact that we don’t know what will happen and that there’s maybe room for us to intervene.”

To move through this insisting on our connection to one another, even as we’re called to keep to ourselves, is to honor the ways we are interdependent. If that wasn’t already apparent before this pandemic, it’s certainly something we can embody and realize now.

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