I C S

cdc i c s irene jones pratt art institute vulnerable and interconnected

My mother drew her first nude at an art class in Pratt Art Institute in New York when she was 17 years old.  It is a three quarters view of a woman leaning over to dry her knee, perhaps after a bath.  It is almost Grecian in its perfection of form.  I had it framed and look at it every day, often wishing that I inherited her ability to see and then transcribe beauty onto a page, not with pens, but with pastels.   In a recent art book I purchased I learned that every human form contains basically three letters.  I, C, and S.  Strip away all the gear and wardrobe finery we layer ourselves in, and it becomes evident.  When the body begins to move and bend and arch and stand, muscle, ligament, and tissue tend to congregate in those three shapes.   The I of the vertical line.  The C of a sharp bend.  And the long, slow, lazy S that requires a little distance to discern, like the sound of a saxophone.

Yesterday three other letters, the CDC, released the vaccinated among us to now go unmasked and roam freely about the country.  Finally, we get to hug again.  And see smiles that radiate across entire faces, and not just above eyebrow lines.

I have spoken with at least three people who have expressed quarantine release anxiety—stating that even though they came at times to resent their confinement, now they feel anxious about leaving it.  After three days of back to back social engagements with neighbors and friends, I feel a little exhausted myself.  There is a different kind of energy required in face to face human interactions.  Simple tweets and emojis that can be chosen or terminated at will must now give way to long hours of eye contact and reflective listening, appropriate word choice responses that must be in sentences, not sound bites. Thoughts and words must tie in to what was said before (hopefully) as well as seque into the next spoken word that will keep the conversation flowing forward, and the desired connection maintained.

Boundaries that were set for us—stay six feet apart or go six feet under—are now off the table.

What shall we do with this new freedom?  What have we learned about ourselves and the world at large during this unprecedented time of pause?  As we spill back into the malls and the bars and the circular booths, will we be more tender with one another?

Will we remember how vulnerable and interconnected we are, able to be brought down by invisible spikes on a cell lacking intelligence, but not lacking in determination to invade and multiply?  Will we re-cherish the elders among us, who contain wisdom and memories of lives lived long and full?   Will we re-appreciate the teachers who shape and support our children, as well as our family structures?  Will we stop and be-hold those we encounter, dropping the masks of our own blind agendas, and ask “God, what do you see in this person before me?  What would you have me tell them?  How would you have me be present for them, in whatever form I can, for however long I can, while I still am able?”

A few days ago a former client of mine shared that he was so moved by a man busing an outdoor table at a restaurant whose face had been severely deformed.  He said he couldn’t sleep that night just thinking about him.  The next day he went back to the restaurant and inquired about the man’s condition.  He is a 33 year old immigrant who caused people to turn away from him due to his facial deformity.  Rick said “I couldn’t help myself.  I went to meet with the man in person, then took him to meet with my physician, and next thing I know I am paying for his surgery.  Since he has no family here I became his caregiver—cleaning his wounds every hour after surgery so infection would not set in.”  He took a long emotional breath and then added “When the man slowly opened his eyes as they removed his bandages, I saw Jesus looking back at me.”

I C S.    When the I C S becomes I C US, heaven will be here among us- at last- recognized.