Dylan Thomas would think … well I don’t know, I never met him. But through imagined conversations with the poet, I think he might say that we are unwilling to “go gentle into that good night.” He’d probably say we “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” and to prove ourselves to be right.
These conversations with people we barely know — conversations with people we think we know, online at least — typically start and end like heavyweight title fights, with the ringing of our alert chimes or buzzing of our phones. The politics of the day rule our minds.
This happened to me the other day. I picked my fight, as many of us do who are passionate and willing to argue, not knowing exactly who I would end up arguing with for argument’s sake. But I knew if I dropped my left someone would lunge at the red meat I laid before them.
I knew right away my post lacked empathy for those who have or might still contract COVID-19 — maybe believing social distancing measures to be a ploy to rip our rights away. I went toe to toe and round after round with my foe, matching and blocking every verbal punch and lunge.
I knew I was right, it had to be so! And then, the unthinkable … I agreed with him. Did he really just say that?
I read again, and … we agreed. He knocked my humanity back into me.
We agreed that “We’ll never know.” We’ll never know if a measure made halfheartedly will lead to more deaths or a measure pushed too far will lead the world to another great depression. Being honest, we’ll never necessarily know if we acted too soon or too late, too leniently or too harshly. Or what the fallout will be from actions not taken.
But I know this for certain: I feel bad about my original post, not for the “prize fight” it instigated, but because I do have empathy for anyone who contracts COVID-19. I know one victim, someone who is opposed to the current lockdown measures. He is a neighbor (in the biblical sense) who means a lot to people I love. His name is Roger and we will bless him with our fierce tears as we pray that he does not go gentle into that good night, while he lies in the ICU fighting for his life.
I will “rage, rage against the dying of the light” for people I love and for issues I believe in. But I will not do again what I did the other day, treading over my own empathy. When we rage against ourselves, and our better ideals, we are at our worst.
Finding empathy for other people even if we disagree with them on many things helps us accept their humanity and reminds us of our shared humanity. After all, Christ has accepted us. Why shouldn’t we accept one another? (Romans 15:7.)
Derek A. Gunderson lives in Victoria.