Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. – From Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The world has changed. The country has changed. This year, it seems like everything changed.
This year, this pandemic, has changed everything all over the world. I don’t know anyone who is not tired. Who is not, on some level, afraid, or mourning, or struggling. The recent New Yorker cover nailed it perfectly – the chaos of our lives while struggling to present to the world that we are OK and put together.
But we – you, me, all of us, really – are not OK. As I write this, some 3,000 people every day are dying from this pandemic. Our government has abandoned us. It is easy right now to be discouraged, to feel alone, to lose hope.
But it is important to remember right now that we still are who we were before this pandemic. As Tennyson put it in Odysseus, “that which we are, we are…” We didn’t change, the world changed. Our circumstances changed. But we are still the same people, with the same talents, gifts, and abilities. We still have the same urges, the same yearnings, the same loves.
We are more tired than we used to be. We may be a bit weaker. Maybe for you, your depression is worse, or you lose your stamina, or sometimes the way you get through is by staring into the distance most of the afternoon. I get it. I’m there too. Most days, just putting on clothes and showing up is a victory.
In Darwin’s Origin of the Species, he did not, as is popularly believed, say that the strongest survive – rather, he said the one who survives is the one most adaptable to change.
Once, when I was facing a terrible crisis and was unsure I could go on, a mentor told me one time that I had a 100% successful track record of surviving literally every single difficulty life had thrown at me to that point, so betting that I would not be able to overcome the current one was to not face reality.
So we will go on. We will persevere. We will strive forward, because we are still who we are. We will continue to build a better world, because that is who we are. We will adapt to the realities of our changing circumstances while never abandoning the spark, the hope, the dream that lies within us, to build a better world than the one in which we currently live.
We will fight to protect the most vulnerable, and work to keep everyone safe, and along the way we will improvise, adapt, and overcome. We will get through this, and build a better world on the other side of it. We will strive and seek and find and not yield.
And we will do it together.