May I first mention, dear reader, two mistakes, in the last two meditations, which a couple of friends have very kindly pointed out to me. In Meditation 53, ‘I pad’ should read ‘iPad’ and in Mediation 54, ‘fit of peak’ should read ‘fit of pique.’ I stand corrected.   

Sitting here as usual beside my candle I am thinking back to a year ago, March 9th 2020, which was the last time I visited a theatre. It was the Royal Opera House, where I attended a performance of Beethoven’s only opera, ‘Fidelio.’ How was I to know then that I wouldn’t be visiting a theatre with friends again for some time in the future? Also how was I to foresee that eating a meal with friends in a restaurant would be a rare experience indeed over the months that followed? Then a few weeks later, we were in total lockdown and here we are now, still locked down a year later, despite a few months of respite here and there.

Beethoven’s opera is a very moving plea for political freedom. A political prisoner, Florestan, is unjustly imprisoned and about to be executed but he is saved by his faithful wife, Leonora, the ‘Fidelio’ of the title. Little did I know when watching the opera and being transported by Beethoven’s rapturous music, that we would be in a kind of imprisonment ourselves a few week’s later – but in a just cause.

Marcus’ stoicism has certainly been stretched to the limit within me in the last twelve months. He writes, ‘You have the power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this and you will have strength.’ This is true of course, but difficult when my iPhone wants to have power over my mind all the time and it is very difficult to have the strength to resist that insistent mistress, the iPhone!  He also advocates, ‘Confine yourself to the present.’ This has been most useful over these last months. Concentrating on and enjoying the present moment has helped me get through, as have family and friends, my dear friends. St Thomas Aquinas, the medieval theologian observes that ‘There is nothing on the earth to be prized more than friendship.’ How right he is.  

Where are we now, a year on? From the friends I have shared with, it seems we are all exhausted and burnt out with living on adrenalin as much as coping with the changing restrictions. We are like an old clock that has slowly wound down. And, much as it has been a comfort and support, our eyes and our brains are exhausted with technology, at least, mine are. I am streamed away and zoomed out, exhausted by a plethora of media platforms and endless choices for digital entertainment. I feel as if I am like a little over-tired child, unable to settle to anything yet refusing to give in and rest. Rest is what we will need when all this is over. 

In the last few days I have been in my garden inspecting my plants. When the weather is cold and rainy and especially when the sky is overcast or just dull and dismal with no sign of the sun, it is easy to forget that signs of Spring have appeared. Buds have emerged on my magnolia and apple trees and on my pink camellia shrub, the first slithers of pink are just appearing in the buds. My daffodils and alliums have also made an appearance, though they are not yet in bloom. Similarly there are new vivid red and green shoots on my rose bushes.

I think it is the same with our current situation: our eyes are dulled to the signs of hope (such as the vaccine) by the monotony of these months. We have been locked down into winter and probably have never felt winter so keenly or heavily. Though we have been overstimulated as usual by streaming and media platforms, these haven’t been enough to alleviate the weight of this winter. Usually perhaps we would get through winter by being overstimulated in other ways: by seeing people, going out for meals, socialising and partying over the Christmas season, jetting off to the sun, Christmas shopping or taking in a show or an exhibition. Most of this has been impossible or severely restricted. So, we have felt the weight of winter. 

It seems that we have felt the weight of winter on our shoulders to the extent that maybe we have not noticed the first signs of Spring at our feet.  We are all so exhausted with the physical and emotional demands of the last year that it is difficult to perceive the signs of hope, the light in the tunnel.        

The other day I came across a video clip on the BBC News website. It was from a frozen lake in Canada somewhere – the location was not specified. A man with a broad grin on his bearded face was joyfully dancing a Bhangra on the ice. Gurdeep Pandher had just received his first vaccine shot and was dancing to ‘share the positivity and joy he felt’.    

I have recently discovered a rare word from the 16th Century which is not in use anymore but should be at this present time. It is ‘respair’. It means ‘fresh hope and recovery from despair’. Now after long dark months of near despair at times, we are in a period of respair, a time of fresh hope and recovery. The man on the ice, therefore, was performing a dance of respair. Perhaps it is time for us to dance too, to dance in our hearts. To share the positivity and look to the coming months with fresh hope. 

Ave atque Vale – Hail and Farewell – until the next blog!

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A selection of previous meditations is also available in audio form as ‘Meditations of Neilus Aurelius’ ASMR on YouTube. 

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