From the latest edition of The Newry Reporter
Latitude is a great word. In the dictionary, it means literally the distance from the equator. However, in the broader sense it means freedom in making choices, breadth and space.
If there is one thing that we have learned from the COVID-19 lockdown and isolation is that we have all had the opportunity to create a bit more latitude for family, friends and ourselves.
Normal life prior to March 2020 was anything but ‘normal.’ The majority of us were very busy; we developed hectic lifestyles we were that pre-occupied that we had little or no time for anyone, anything and especially no time for ourselves. Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats captured this well in 1978 with the lyrics in the song Rat Trap, ‘it’s a rat trap and you’ve been caught.’ We had all been caught up being busy, but what did we achieve, where did this hectic life lead us to? An endless circle where despite all our freedoms people became more isolated and withdrawn. We had no time to stop, engage with a friend, chat to neighbours and reach out in a meaningful way.
It is only when the lockdown hit and we were forced to isolate, did we realise that what we had taken for granted was snatched away? Now because of the restrictions forced upon us we have had had to slow down. This reduction in the speed of life has had some benefits. We have now been presented with an opportunity to lift our heads, look around and re-engage with friends, neighbours, family and most importantly ourselves.
Life prior to COVID was that fast we had literally no time for anyone let alone ourselves. To our peril we excluded many things especially God because we had no time we were too busy. We must all take the opportunity now to create a little bit of space, a spiritual and physical space where we can be ourselves and re-ignite our friendships especially with God.
Theologian Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) said:
‘In difficult times you should always carry something beautiful in your mind.’ Is there anything more beautiful than a friendship? When you carry this beauty, it is not a burden and it makes the obstacles of life seem less onerous.’Blaise Pascal
When you have accomplished this, then why not broaden your latitude, create a little bit of additional space, and reach out to others, simply to communicate, brighten your day and theirs.
My father used to remark that years ago in the countryside people took time, they used to stop, chat, and pass the time of day. He remarked that life had got that busy you’d be lucky if you get a wave of a hand or a toot of the car horn as they speed past you.
Over the last year, I have marvelled at our reaction to lockdown. People are out exercising, talking, chatting and getting to know themselves and their friends all over again. Under the restrictions we are remaining socially distant but we are all extending our circles, relishing the reward we get from others.
Now as we approach Easter use this time to create a bit more space in our lives for the things that matter declutter our lives of the material things that we believed were important and create a spiritual latitude.