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    Limbo

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    Last month, my article was titled “Change.” It was about facing change and turning it into opportunity. It outlined ways to manage the emotions that come with leaps of faith. We have had an inordinate amount of change foisted upon us over the last year.

    Over the last month, we have had many changes in the messages we are receiving from all sides. The result of those changes is the disturbing feeling of limbo. I am certainly feeling this in every area of my life, both work and personal. The more I thought of it, the more it resonated.

    My first thought was the “game” we used to play at gatherings with friends. Even though it may have been called a dance in some circles, we ignored that and used it as a game. We were not allowed to dance, of course. It’s a cheap activity—also helpful. All you needed was a broom. We did not play music lest we move a body part below the waist that could be interpreted as dance that, of course, somehow led to pregnancy. I gotta say, I was pretty good at it. I think I could do well today if the broom were at about four feet, although bending backwards to make it under the broom might be a problem. I’d do more of a crouching tiger.

    Thinking about an article about limbo, I did what I always do—begin with research into the word. I’m kind of sorry I did. I assumed this would be the first, and perhaps only, definition: “an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.”

    But no, that is not the first definition. The first definition is: “in some Christian beliefs, limbo is the supposed abode of the souls of unbaptized infants, and of the just who died before Christ’s coming.”

    I had absolutely no idea. Had I any idea, I would not have looked. But then I couldn’t look away, like a car wreck. This is what I learned: Limbo is a legacy of Roman Catholic tradition, which stipulates that babies who died before being baptized did not go to heaven, but to an in-between state known as limbo. This is not to be confused with the parochial definition of Purgatory, which talks about purification and punishment. Wow! While the Catholic Church has a defined doctrine on original sin, it has none on the eternal fate of unbaptized infants or people born before Jesus came along. Theologians are free to propose different theories as they wish.

    This little recovering-Baptist boy is speechless. I have no words. None. Zero. Lest I get on my soapbox of disgust and disbelief that any religion would have any such thing in its doctrine. I’m certain some of that is why I was brought up being told Catholics were not Christians. One of the other good ones was the Baptist doctrine that believers were free to talk to God with no intermediary. They need only listen to God—not their preacher. Oh, boy. That’s another article.

    Back to COVID-19. It is difficult to remember where we were at the end of February last year. Imagine if we knew then what we know now. Thank goodness we didn’t. Had anyone told us our country would be shut down for a year, we would have laughed. If anyone had told us that in the next month grocery shelves would be empty, we would laugh even harder. The laughter subsided as we began to stock up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and Netflix subscriptions. In fact, early pictures of Italy closing down brought responses of “that would never happen in the U.S.” Then it did … for a year! We need to look away from the fact that Italy is now closing again.

    What is interesting looking back is that during that time, at least things were clear. We knew where we could go and where we could not. We knew we couldn’t gather in groups. We certainly knew, because we were reminded often, that we could not sing near any other human. Most of us knew we were going to be homebound and soon learned what that meant. Every 2 or 3 weeks, the advisories were updated. For those of us in California, they didn’t change much. Those in charge were clear. All we needed to do was follow. We were actually one of the states that listened to science.

    Light dawned in January with the change in administration. A breath of fresh air carried hope on its wings. The last two months have been delightful. Unlike the previous four years, it has been good news every day instead of dreading the next tweet from the oval office.

    Through no one’s fault at all, we find ourselves in limbo. We are looking for something concrete, some answers. They are not to be found. Our new president asked the country to wear masks for 100 days from January 20. State governors decided they didn’t need to do that. The Biden administration has redoubled efforts to move COVID-19 vaccines from warehouses into arms. That is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    But … a new PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll (https://to.pbs.org/3f1LGoJ)  released last week found that 30 percent of Americans said they do not plan on getting vaccinated. Those numbers include 41 percent of Republicans saying they would not be vaccinated and 49 percent of Republican men who will not. The exact number of people who must be vaccinated to reach herd immunity is not known.

    Limbo. Seventy percent of the country is going to unbelievable lengths to make this happen while 30% refuse. The reasons are beyond belief. There is no data to prove any of them. A portion of our population has been conditioned not to listen to science, not to believe the news, and not to trust anything coming from Democrats.

    Adding to limbo are the color-coded stages: Purple, Red, Orange, Yellow. And we go back and forth. With as much moving around, it should just be a watercolor. The reality is that COVID-19 ignores manmade hard lines, boundaries, and politics. Hopefully, we are on a steady march toward Yellow—or white/transparent!

    Can we meet in groups? Perhaps we can meet with family members by July 4th to set off some firecrackers. That’s nice. People still can’t sing in a group. They’ve even been frowning on a single person singing indoors. But they are opening up churches. That took a federal lawsuit against the State of California to make that happen. Just so you know, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus has no plans to sue the state in order for us to gather, even though the chorus is church for many. We will listen to science instead, and we will wait … in limbo.

    It is unsettling not to know what is ahead, but at least our limbo is not a holding room for those who, through no fault of their own, got the Go to Jail Card. No $200 for them. If we were there, of course, we’d be singing.

    Speaking of singing, the chorus is certainly not in limbo. We’re singing our hearts out, just not together. So now what? What are our hopes and dreams? We hope we can gather in some kind of group by mid-August. It is pretty certain we will be able to do that. (Did you see what I did there? Pretty certain = limbo.)

    All we can do is embrace the limbo. Be grateful for the fact that the certainty of lockdown is gone and hope that we keep heading for that light. For now, limbo is definitely the glass half-full. Keep filling ‘er up!

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

    Published on March 25, 2021