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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

10 June 2020: Sylvia Roberts, St Peter's Church, Petersfield

What can we do?

What did the cave-woman do when the predator threatened her babies? No, this is not the opening line of a joke but rather a real question - and we know the answer because we have read it in various articles recently. The answer is – “Fight or flight.” That Neanderthal still lives deep within each of us. So deep as to be unreachable and unable to be rooted out because it is a basic survival response heralded by a rush of adrenaline. It makes us decide either to stand and fight or to take flight as fast as possible to a safe place. Either of these options provides us with the comfort of “doing something” and therefore feeling as if we are still in charge.

But what about a situation in which neither fight of flight is possible? That is so much harder because it gives birth to fear and fear is the deep and often unrecognised root of so many strong emotions particularly anger - and anger furiously looks for someone or something to blame.

A predator is threatening humanity. It is not evil in itself but only insofar as it invades and harms our species. It is a life form which has overstepped its boundaries. Some of us can fight. Praise God for all medics and key workers who are doing just that. But the only flight open to us all is isolation and that is so hard because it feels like doing nothing. Can we think of isolating ourselves and social distancing as “doing something” rather than doing nothing? It is doing something. It is brave and self-sacrificing and life giving to others rather than pleasing ourselves and when accompanied by prayer is powerful indeed.

The poet Milton in his blindness experienced this severe lesson and left us with these words which can perhaps give us hope and courage today.

“Thousands at God’s bidding speed
and post o’er land and ocean without rest:
“They also serve who only stand and wait.”

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