When you get a bit Zoomed out (usually during a Zoom meeting, to be honest) distraction comes easily. For me it’s always songs that go around my head. It can be problematic.

Today has been complicated because there are two songs: one by REM and one by Bruce Cockburn.

’It’s the end of the world as we know it’ is the title of REM’s 1987 epic. It also chimes in with today and the uncertain future we all now face. I’ve always thought that obsessions with the end of the world are a clever way of avoiding the ending of lots of worlds – something that happens every day for someone somewhere.

What we are gong through now with Covid-19 is the ending of a way of life that we always assumed would just keep going and growing (like the economy). We can’t yet know what this death will give birth to because we can’t get to resurrection until we have done the loss of Friday and lived through the agonising emptiness of Saturday.  But, we will have to decide how to handle the disorientation of the ending of a world before we work out if or how to shape the world that might emerge from the ashes of our expectations.

This shouldn’t come as a shock. History tells us that the affluence of the West is abnormal and always precarious. Empires come and go, don’t they? Humility should trump hubris, but that might be wishful thinking.

Bruce Cockburn has been exploring the universe for decades and he has done so in the most beautiful poetry as well as the best guitar playing. (I know I keep banging on about him, but that’s just the way it is. Sorry.) yet, occasionally you get a bit of an oddity that is brilliant, but unexpected. One of these is ‘Anything Can Happen’ – a romantic tune, but killing words. Try this, the chorus:

Anything can happen
To put out the light,
Is it any wonder
I don’t want to say goodnight?

The verses rehearse some of the random and terrible things that might happen to anyone at any time. It is funny and sharp. But, it also questions our easy failure to face mortality and contingency – both fundamental to living in a material world which we can’t control.

This just makes the point that, despite our attempts at securing our security, we all actually live in the edge. Realising and accepting this is the beginning of human freedom. All the other questions then follow on.

It feels like the virus has compelled us to face what we otherwise suppress by busyness, distraction (“amusing ourselves to death”, as Neil Postman put it) or fear. (Today is also the 75th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s death by suicide – ending a war and opening up a different future beyond the destruction and death. But, that’s for another day.)