Convergence

See you again on Jan. 4, 2021

Stay warm, stay healthy – and always wear a mask

Image courtesy of Richard Asinof

A poster from Bread and Circus Theater

By Richard Asinof
Posted 12/14/20

PROVIDENCE – ConvergenceRI is taking a planned two-week break and will send out the next issue on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.

As ConvergenceRI moves forward into its eighth year, the weekly digital news platform continues to gain traction in the marketplace, expanding conversations and convergence across networks, neighborhoods, communities and industry clusters.

I want to offer my sincere thanks and gratitude to everyone who has helped us travel on a path toward success, often choosing the road less traveled. Thank you!

And, as Kim Keck, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI, advised in her interview with ConvergenceRI in this week’s edition, “Keep asking the tough questions and keep listening.”

Irritable and cranky
I admit to being irritable and cranky, not the best frame of mind to be writing an end-of-the-year summary, seeking to craft a positive reframe on a terrible, no-good, awful, catastrophic year, as we all blink out into the darkness.

As readers may know, for much of this year, I have been battling against autoimmune encephalitis, which has made it increasingly difficult to walk. The first round of infusion treatments seems to have improved my stability. Thankfully, the condition has not impaired my mental acuity nor diminished my perspicacity in publishing ConvergenceRI. But, I admit, I am often more cranky and irritable than usual.

Yes, the new vaccine manufactured by Pfizer is being rolled out, with health care workers on the front lines in hospitals in Rhode Island scheduled to get their first shots this week, a triumph of science.

The vaccine, by itself, however, will not immediately halt the community spread of the virus. The prediction is that the numbers of COVID-19 cases will continue to climb exponentially, swamping the ability of hospitals and nursing homes to care for patients – resulting in an ever-increasing number of deaths. Wear a mask. Stay home. Wash your hands.

As we celebrate the Earth rotating on its axis, turning away from darkness toward light again, we must remember that we are all interconnected, part of a larger family, even if we must maintain social distancing.

With a major snowstorm forecast to be headed our way later this week, it is a season’s greeting reminder to rekindle our kindness. If fervent words can help, I fervently hope that we continue to support each other as we skate on thin ice away from the apocalypse toward a rebirth of wonder.

The importance of sharing stories
Since I first began writing this column eight years ago, I have chosen to illustrate it with a poster from Bread and Puppet, purchased nearly four decades ago, when I attended the annual iconic summer festival held in Glover, Vermont, in the natural bowl-like amphitheater carved out of a rural Vermont hills when a gravel bed was dug out of the ground for the construction of Interstate 91. The remaining hole formed a perfect natural amphitheater in which to stage outdoor circus of performers, puppets, and sideshows.

The illustration, a print on white cotton cloth, the borders stitched together in an uneven, tilting rectangle, features the word “STORY” in all caps, above an illustration of a chair and a yellow, four-pointed star, set against an azure background, within a thick black border. Call it a rural version of René Magritte’s symbolism, where nothing seems to align except the desire for narrative.

The poster has always captured, for me, the juggling act that is involved in storytelling [and in journalism]: the storyteller is a participant, an observer, and a narrator, requiring nimbleness. Storytelling is as much about listening as it is about speaking, much the same way that music is about the quiet spaces between the notes being played, and painting is always about the temperatures of the colors as they collide on canvas.

This year, we are being forced to invent new traditions, to improvise new stories, to develop new ways to stay connected while being socially distant. We must learn to carry our dreams on our backs.

The narrative hiding in plain sight
We are living in a time of great peril, from both the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 in the U.S. since March 1 and the autocratic plague that has infected our democracy. This year, most everyone’s personal and political stories have converged around the coronavirus pandemic, disrupting almost all of our accustomed patterns of behavior and discourse.

Our own personal stories are still the most valuable possession we have, and the act of sharing those stories is what makes us more human, attempting to survive in an inhumane world, the glue that holds us together.

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