The Compass in our Hand

“We are asleep with compasses in our hands.”
– W.S. Merwin –


Overnight my world became more silent. The ceasing of so much noise and activity was not planned or expected. It just happens when a pandemic comes calling. Not in a million light years would I have predicted this or seen it coming. Nonetheless it has. Very few lives remain unaffected.

‘Lockdown’ has brought us many things. Change is one of them. We are assigned a new way of going about our daily business. Change requires renegotiation. There is a give and a take in this new world. We grieve the loss of so many things we took for granted … and we also stare wide eyed at the ‘new’.

The ‘new’ confronts us with the realisation that ‘normal’ is simply an imagined, constructed idea. The ‘old’ normal has disappeared, and, yes, we miss it, but, surprisingly, we also go on. Our survival never has and never will be dependent on ‘normal’. ‘Normal’ is simply the story a culture, society or tribe tells itself. ’Normal’ is the myth peddled as truth. Sadly, the shaming of those who do not adhere to ’normal’ is brutal, while those who colour within the lines of Normal’s strict Code of Conduct Colouring book, are rewarded.

So, in this new, silent, unexpected, changing world we realise that ‘normal’ can be a drug that puts us to sleep as it sings the lullabies of ‘familiar’. Adrift in this sea of ‘normal’ we sleep, under the spell of promises of ’success’. Until a pandemic … then we wake up, and we realise we have a compass in our hands and a neglected sail we can hoist.

“I don’t ever want to go back to eating out that much.”
“I realised how … has spoken to/treated me in the past is not okay.”
“I have never paid so much attention to my health before.”
“I didn’t realise that silence was so important.”
“I don’t want to go back to working so hard that I never stop.”
“I can’t remember why I stopped drawing, but I have started again.”
“Is staring into space a skill?”
“Why was I so worried about what everyone thought?”
“I am reading all my books again and I forgot how much I loved reading.”
“It never occurred to me that a day spent in pyjamas could be so wonderful.”
“Community is all that really matters to me.”

These are snippets of the many conversations I am having at the moment. It seems like the pandemic has had an alarm clock effect. We have awoken from our ‘normal’ trance and are no longer okay to have our stories dominated by the values of others. We are the experts of our own story. Our values, like a compass, have always been in our hands. So we wake from our value amnesia and look at them like someone recognising a long, lost friend.

In this ever-changing, strange new world, why not consider your life in light of the hopes and dreams you hold for it? What has sabotaged those dreams? Are you okay with that? If not, what does this resistance tell you about you as a person and the values you hold?

I don’t know how long we will live with the effects of this pandemic. I would take a guess and say there are years ahead of us. ‘Normal’, as we previously knew it, may never again return. May I suggest that as we sail into this new world, let’s resist the urge to fall asleep again to the beguiling tune of someone else’s dominant story. You have a compass in your hand, a way of deriving meaning out of life that is linked to your values and what you hold precious. It is a gift. Read it and hoist the sails!

“The compass opened, if I may so express myself, the universe. “
-Charles de Montesquieu-



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