Labora et Ora

May opens with a paradox — the month dedicated to revelry, joy, and fertility begins with a day celebrating work and workers. Of course, in this anno Domini of 2020 1 May does not limit itself to the ancient customs of northwestern Europe, nor the declarations of the Second International. The first of May commemorates the saints Walpurga, Marcouf, Brioc, Ultan, Sigismund of Burgundy, Benedict of Szkalka, Joseph the Worker, and starts a month of devotion to the Virgin Mary. Add assorted Druids, cows, fire spirits, and oppressed proletariats; quite a circle to ring our maypole. 

If we erected a maypole this year, it would need to be taller than usual, not only for phallic potency but to ensure that the dancers maintain proper social distancing. (footnote) I dread that the fertility coming this month will be more cases of coronavirus disease, an orgy of multiplying SARS-CoV-2. (footnote) Better that we turn our festival of saints, divinities, hierophants, and cattle to improving our commonweal.

Yet I stand in urgent need of a party. A celebration. A shindig and a wingding, with convivial merriment, fine cheese, and expensive chocolate. I dare not do so in person at this moment. My family, employers, and research all need me more than my desire to whoop it up in VE-Day-1945 style. 

In truth, my quarantine experience reflects my ridiculous privilege. I am a male of northern European descent with multiple employers who want me to work overtime from home. I live in a large house, with plenty of spaces to escape other denizens when I need to be by my own self. Medications, food, sundries, and packages all come by speedy post or curbside pickup; restaurants and bookstores appeal to my email inbox and text message app to put delicious food on my porch, and fascinating new tomes by the front door. (footnote) 

Compared to the torment of many, I wallow in luxury. 

How then do I convey gratitude for my blessings, whilst reckoning with my privilege, and dispensing aid to humanity? I hope Dicaeopolis forms part of my answer. The Latin form of the Attic Greek name Δικαιόπολις, many translations render it as “the just city.” That lacks the full force of the original, which means something more like “the righteous city.” It implies people living together in harmony with each other and with the divine. I will write more about the name in the future, but for today’s purposes, it highlights my desire to contribute to a community, a Grand Discourse that lifts all of us in concord and joy. 

We dwell in our homes, alone together in a great effort to protect not only ourselves but the rest of humanity.

Caregiving is fundamental to human life. It can be considered a species-specific characteristic. Anthropologist Margaret Mead was one asked what she considered the earliest evidence of civilization. She answered that it was a human thigh bone with a healed fracture that had been excavated from a fifteen-thousand-year-old site. For an early human begin to have survived a broken femur, living through the months that were required for the bone to heal, the person had been cared for—sheltered, protected, brought food and drink. While other animals care for their young and injured, no ohter species is able to devote as much time and energy to caring for the most frail, ill, and dying of its members.

Ira Byock

Here then commences a new day, a new month, and a new blog, dedicated to the betterment of us all. As we construct ourselves, and our societies, may we work and pray for a better tomorrow.

Be well,

Spencer C. Woolley