"Happy" Holidays: Holding all of 2020
On 2020, and Tolkien's eucatastrophe & dyscatastrophe
I wish you all a very happy holiday and hope that you are able to mark it safely with people that care for you, either virtually or in a pod.
This year has been so difficult; it’s one of those things where language falters and can only hint at the depth of feeling we hold in our bodies. Even trying to remember everything that has happened on the national and global level is daunting: the fires in Australia, the impeachment process, the beginning of the pandemic, the initial shutdown, the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests for racial justice, the local injustices perpetrated by the DHS in Portland, wildfires in California, the election week, the subsequent failed court challenges by Trump’s legal team, the vaccine development and deployment—all as the pandemic raged unabated, upending our lives.
Thousands are dying each day. It’s hard to comprehend, to hold in our heads and hearts for more than a moment. It’s hard to conceive of the callous indifference our leadership that downplayed the threat of the pandemic and rushed to receive the vaccine first. It’s hard to hear story after story of people who have lost loved ones, or hear of friends or family who have tested positive.
It’s hard to know how to celebrate or acknowledge the good things that may have happened this year, too.
Several years ago, I read a book called J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. In that text I learned that Tolkien coined the term “eucatastrophe,” meaning “the good catastrophe:”
After the long election cycle, amidst the pandemic, the news that Biden had won the election was a moment of eucatastrophe for much of the nation…
…followed by the dyscatastrophe of election results denial, and further loss of life and livelihood from the unchecked pandemic.
Over the past two years, due to events in my own life, religious symbolism hasn’t provided as much comfort as it once has for me personally. But I still take solace in language, and in community—even if it is primarily virtual.
I imagine that you have your own moments of eucatastrophe and dyscatastrophe that define this year for you. I hope you (safely) honor them in your own way. If traditions like Advent that acknowledge the anxious nature of anticipation speak to you, I hope you can hear what they have to say.
But more than anything I hope that you can rest. It has been a hard year.
I’ll be taking most of the next two weeks off. I’ll be resting, and planning for 2021 and beyond. Should my schedule over the next couple days allow, I’ll be writing the second part of my How Should We Then Live (with Evangelical Christian Nationalists)? series.
Be well. Rest well.