By Jim Towey
Summer vacations are meant to refresh one’s body, mind and soul. Some time away offers an opportunity for reflection on our lives and the world around us and restores a balance often disturbed by the work, school, health challenges, excitements, grief, and monotonous routine that precede them. Life with too much leisure can rotten the soul, but life without it can be downright deadening.
Summer breaks are needed more than ever because the world seems a bit off its axis. The global economy is entering a recession of unknown duration, and at home, gas and food prices remind America that we will not be spared from its hardship and consequences. It doesn’t help that our nation’s leadership dissembles about these dangers as inflation rates climb to heights not seen in generations. Those in America who championed lockdowns in response to the Covid pandemic instead of focused protection of the citizens truly at risk of death sabotaged the economic engines of the world, not to mention the mental health machinery of the fragile.
Years ago, I coined the term “global weirding” to describe climate changes that were more odd than proof of warming. Global weirding now describes the times we are in, and how we got here. Covid took it to a new level. Irrational fear spread faster than the virus itself. China wouldn’t let people out of their homes to buy food. India followed suit, and once reliable Australia seemed to get a case of the crazies with its emergency measures. Countries across the globe looked in vain to the U.S. for leadership (save for our vaccine development success). Lockdowns and business, school and commerce shutdowns gave proof to the Chinese proverb: “Three years to grow a tree; one day to cut it down.”
Everyone has their own stories of how some of the social distancing, mandatory masking, and the quarantine and sanitizing policies played out in America. To paraphrase scripture, if you sow weird, you reap the whirlweird. I remember seeking refuge on a golf course and discovering that the rakes in the sand traps, by order of Virginia’s health authorities, had been removed to keep infections from spreading. Sand trap rakes?
Such instances of absurdity were everywhere. Fake fans and crowd noises were inserted into broadcasts of football and baseball games, with bizarre Harry Potter-like moving heads observing the players competing in empty stadiums and arenas. That was weird, not entertaining. I remember a news anchor’s somber announcement early on that Tom Hanks had Covid. Her funereal tone was meant to frighten. That Hanks wasn’t even sick and had no symptoms did not matter or get mentioned. High drama is fine without facts.
Now we know
Erring on the side of caution when the pandemic began was understandable as little was known about who was at risk of hospitalization and death and no vaccines were available. But that period ended long ago. And yet, once again, some of the same authorities threaten the same foolish measures as another Covid sequel plays out. This time it is the “omicron subvariant ba.2” strain. The Washington Post editorial board hit its panic button again recently, and even the Wall Street Journal’s news coverage hyped the danger the “subvariant” poses. Do those who fan the fires of fear ever own the mental health trauma and economic carnage they inflict upon a populace already rattled by two years of their doom-saying? Even the career rank-and-file at the Center for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health are realizing people have lost confidence in their recommendations.
Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic is not allowed to compete at the U.S. Open because he is a non-citizen and has not been vaccinated, by order of a Biden administration policy, one routinely ignored at our Southern borders by other non-citizen (and illegal) arrivals. Couldn’t one of the greats of tennis take a test before he enters America? What danger does he pose that’s any different than the 200+ passengers on my Delta flight yesterday?
Normal beats weird
Jesus exhorted his followers, “Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest a little.” He knew the liberating power of a vacation to banish weirdness and replace it with experiences and thoughts that are beautiful, life-giving, and, well, normal. Each of us finds that experience differently. For me, the journey starts and ends along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Its vastness conveys a permanence much greater than the vainglory of our times. Sitting seaside, or reading a novel, chasing a golf ball around a course, sharing a glass of wine with family and friends, walking through the woods subtly remind me that normal triumphs over weird, that human beings are resilient, and that God is good.
If you can find a way to get away for a vacation, do it. America needs a booster shot of normal, and we are just the people to administer this antidote to global weirding.