ALONE / ALL ONE

Dear President Trump,

I probably didn’t need to consult the Google Oracle to confirm that the rainbow pictures cropping up in windows around Seattle (many of which are also hosting Teddy bears) are related to covid-19, but I just had to be sure. And yep, they are – apparently a nurse in NYC posted rainbow images on her Facebook page several weeks ago to boost hope and the idea took off (and who knows who else, where else came up with the same idea). Personally, I think it’s kind of funny and also pretty great that it’s the same basic idea as the rainbow pride flag. Despite your all’s efforts to divide us, we just keep coming back around to the core idea that people of all sorts are in this life thing together.

In addition to seeing maybe five new rainbows in windows on my walk this morning, there was also new chalk art and painted signage. First there was a huge, very carefully and artfully rendered “LOVE” in block letters across a driveway. Next there was a 6’ by 4’ foil-ish piece of cloth hung on a fence with blue lettering spelling out “Be Well & Breathe Deeply.” After that there was a whole house-length stretch of chalk art that included several abstract squares, a rainbow flag, and the words “Covid-19 / Be Brave / Be Strong / Hang in There / We Are All in This Together!” And then finally, about 10’ up the block at the next house someone wrote the word “ALONE” in blue chalk and someone else (or maybe the same person – who knows?) inserted a cattywampus second “L” in red chalk to yield a mushed together “All One.”

Breathe deeply as you take in that last bit. Let’s say, for the moment, that someone, maybe the person who lives next door to the exuberant chalker(s), really did write “ALONE” in response to the “We are all in this together!” rah-rah messaging. The person who wrote it obviously chose to leave some space before adding their bit and from an emotional impact standpoint, that was probably more effective than doing some sort of cross-out or butting “ALONE” right up next to the “in this together” message. I found it a sobering reminder that we are indeed all in this together alone. In reality we are all experiencing nominally the same basic thing with the shelter-in-place restrictions, but each of us alone is carrying our own particular realities that are being impacted in often vastly different ways by the shared reality. And as noted in earlier letters, there are obviously systematic ways that this situation is making pre-covid-19 disparities much, much worse.

That awkward additional “L” jammed in the middle of “ALONE” reveals the paradoxical truth that even as we are alone, we are also all one. Brother Phap Dung in his dharma talk from 3/29 that I told you about earlier in the week talked at length about the idea of interbeing and in her awesome poem “An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans,” Kristin Flyntz pulls this idea of interconnection forward in a big way. Maybe if you let yourself imagine what the Earth must look like from space, near or far space – it doesn’t matter – even you could see that we really are all one, that our individual and collective well-being is tied up all together with one another and with the health of our planet.

Whoever graced the sidewalk with those 5 + 1 letters quite brilliantly summed up the dialectic of human existence – we are each alone and we are simultaneously all one. May we find the courage and resolve to lean into this reality so that we can take way, way better care of each unique and precious being and the invisible connections that keep us tethered to one another (yes, including even you).

May we all simply be safe.
May we elevate our collective interdependence to at least the level of our individuality.
May we see that we are stronger together.
May we consciously make space for hope and for peace.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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