I was hiking recently, enjoying the cool winter desert air and clear skies, and as sometimes happens, I got a little disoriented and thought I had wandered off the trail. Then I saw one of those little rock cairns that people who have gone before often place to help others who might follow. It occurred to me that there was a metaphor and a possible message for our times in the cairns.
I’m not the first person to think that perhaps some of the message and lesson in COVID-19 was the Universe’s way of saying we had lost our way and that our priorities had gotten out of whack. I have certainly heard many people say that COVID has taught them what is really important in life, and what to really value. Often losing something makes us realize how much we valued what we had. And, we certainly have had many losses during the pandemic: historic job losses and established business closures; freedom to travel; freedom to gather; dining out; socializing in bars; and in too many cases, family members and/or friends. It’s been horrific.
And yet, here we are on the precipice of a new year with hope in vaccines. It is a fact that the two leading vaccines that are first to the marketplace were developed with “Messenger RNA.” That these new and potentially very effective vaccines were able to get to market so quickly has much to do with work that started long ago on this new technology. To me, “Messenger RNA” and the work of doctors, nurses, federal, state, and county health officials, who have all prepared professionally to handle emergencies like this, deserve our thanks and our respect. They are the “cairns” to help us find our way on the trail to a healthy recovery. They have hiked this direction, trained, done research, and can point a way to safety.
Of course, there are other messengers and cairns to guide us. Economists come to mind, and I trust that our elected officials will use all the cairns on their trails and the messengers to help guide us out of this disorienting time. But, as I often do, I turn to art and artists for more direction. I am writing this on the 40th anniversary of the day John Lennon was shot and killed in New York City. I listened to his song “Imagine.” It made me cry to hear that simple, haunting song and message for humanity:
So as we start 2021, and, I hope, start to recover from not only the pandemic, but also its devastation on so many lives, I urge all of us to look for cairns to help guide us to a better path, and to imagine a better world. The cairns may appear in unexpected places, but hopefully they will remind us of how we learned in the pandemic to value simple things we took for granted, and to value what is truly important in this life. Blessings to you all, and a Happy New Year!