Social Media, The Pandemic, and CS Lewis’ Best Character

One of the best decisions I made in 2019 was to leave Facebook. There is more than one reason why, but the biggest is this: I’m done with the fighting, and holding my fingers in check on a keyboard is something I’m still working on.

In many ways, I’ve taken a break, perhaps a long one, perhaps a forever one, from most social media. I have a boring Twitter account that only follows organizations, other than Pope Francis and my governor’s director of communications. I have an Insta account that is pretty much for foodie reading and me posting pics of my flowers. LinkedIn is for business.

My blogging has also slowed down, or at least taken a new turn: I blog now for my law firm, and thus about legal issues.

There have been other changes (I don’t know if you know, but there is a pandemic) and I’ve been adapting a lot there too. It’s the end of week 10 for me in isolation, only leaving my condo once or twice a week for groceries or the pharmacy.

I know fighting on Facebook and perhaps other places continues, mostly over the pandemic. I’m glad not to be there. I don’t need anyone telling me I’m stupid for wearing a mask or isolating, or my husband’s front line health care worker view of COVID19 and the havoc it wreaks isn’t real. And I get that some places are in different stages of exposure and recovery. But I’m in Baltimore City, where drop-in, no-appointment, free testing is still sparse (which is what is needed for vulnerable populations). I’m married to someone who was and is on the front line and cutting edge of COVID19 medical care, working long shifts transporting positive patients while working hard to keep the infection from entering our condo, where we are currently living with our two immunocompromised adult children. So foregive me if I’m not interested in your armchair view.

I also mourn the loss of the pool. I was swimming about 5 times a week and was in the best swimming shape of my life post-children. For now, though, its YouTube videos, from mixed cardio to latin dancing. Let’s just say my salsa skills are light.

Last, it’s going on 3 months since I’ve physically attended church. Unlike the pool, however, I don’t need to simulate a poorer form of worship. I can still go to church virtually and be in a small group virtually and even engage in outreach virtually. And yes, I’m annoyed when Christians make pronouncements that suggest they believe church is a building, that without in-person communal worship, some how we are less potent.

I want churches to reopen as soon as is safe for the general public in localized areas, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for me to go. Or rather, that doesn’t mean it is safe for those around me for me to go.

Who is my neighbor? What does my witness look like right now? Perhaps for some, like me, the best witness is by not physically showing up.

We live in a culture that rewards us for being seen. Let’s be honest–some of us need an audience to pat our backs because we can’t or won’t do that for ourselves. For some who claim to be people of faith, our faith is actually weaker than we care to admit. I’m not talking about extroverts who are struggling right now–that’s not a character flaw, and it is harder for extroverts than those of us who might be secretly thriving because of the ability to “introvert harder.” But sometimes I feel like those out there demanding their rights, especially Christians doing so, are really just showing everyone how weak their character is, how superficial their faith is.

It’s not easy for me to stay home. While I don’t want to hang out with 50 people on any day, I do want to be in the pool and go to restaurants and see my extended family. For now, I can’t, and even when I can, I likely won’t do things that, after consulting science, I believe risk my family’s or my neighbors’ health.

In my favorite C.S. Lewis work, The Great Divorce, an spot-on allegorical if not theologically accurate work, people in hell can take vacations to near-heaven, and are given a choice as to whether they want to stay or go back to hell. Almost no one stays.

One of my favorite Lewis characters won’t stay because it’s all about his rights and the well-worn chips on his shoulders. He meets up with a former work colleague who is in heaven. The traveler from hell, who like the other travelers, is a ghost and not a solid person, can’t walk on the painful grass in the near-heaven because of his physical and spiritual lack. He reminds me a great deal of those who can’t think of anything right now but their own “rights,” perhaps most especially those who also claim to be people of faith.

Don’t be like this traveler.

Who is my neighbor?

***

Excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce:

“Look at me, now,” said the Ghost, slapping its chest (but the slap made no noise). “I gone straight all my life . . . . I never asked for anything that wasn’t mine by rights. If I wanted a drink I paid for it and if I took my wages I done my job, see? That’s the sort I was and I don’t care who knows it.”

It would be much better not to go on about that now.”

“Who’s going on? I’m not arguing. I’m just telling you the sort of chap I was, see? I’m asking for nothing but my rights. You may think you can put me down because you’re dressed up like that (which you weren’t when you worked under me) and I’m only a poor man. But I got to have my rights same as you, see?”

“Oh no. It’s not so bad as that. I haven’t got my rights, or I should not be here. You will not get yours either. You’ll get something far better. Never fear.”

That’s just what I say. I haven’t got my rights. I always done my best and I never done nothing wrong . . . . I only want my rights. I’m not asking for anybody’s bleeding charity.”

Then do. At once. Ask for the Bleeding Charity. Everything is here for the asking and nothing can be bought . . . .”

“I don’t want charity. I’m a decent man and if I had my rights I’d have been here long ago and you can tell them I said so . . . . Tell them I’m not coming, see? I’d rather be damned than go along with you. I came here to get my rights, see? Not to go snivelling along on charity tied onto your apron-strings. If they’re too fine to have me without you, I’ll go home.”

It was almost happy now that it could, in a sense, threaten.”That’s what I’ll do,” it repeated, “I’ll go home, I didn’t come here to be treated like a dog. I’ll go home. That’s what I’ll do. Damn and blast the whole pack of you . . .”

In the end, still grumbling, but whimpering also a little as it picked its way over the sharp grasses, it made off.

(emphasis not in original text)

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