So, that book Strange Bedfellows… The one I wrote way back when, after having the whole story play out to me in a dream ’round about 1993… I think about it frequently. And especially recently, as we all go through this COVID-19 business, quarantine, social distance, work from home, shift our ways… and we watch what’s happening in the world as a result.
Less pollution. Apparently, you can see the Himalayas in India for the first time in 30 years, thanks to the lack of pollution. Overall pollution has dropped dramatically, based on the mappings of the globe. 70,000 endangered sea turtles were able to lay their eggs on deserted beaches. And goats have taken over a Welsh town.
Looking around, it would appear that some things, at least, are healing. Even as hundreds of people die each day from COVID-19, we’re seeing some positive effects of everyone just staying home.
And as I look around at the changes that are happening, and I think about the potential for things to really, really change in the future, I can’t help but think about Paul and Christina in Strange Bedfellows. They’re very emblematic of the kinds of people who are running around today, doing as they please, meeting all their own needs (even at the expense of others), and not giving a thought to the larger consequences for anyone other than themselves.
Hell, they don’t even think about the consequences to themselves, since as far as they’re concerned, they’re totally entitled to whatever they can get their hands on.
They remind me of, well, everyone these days.
And like all of us who are feeling the burn from this pandemic… pollution… environmental destruction… economic peril… social crises… you name it… at some point they get pushed to the brink of potential personal destruction. Everything they have is threatened — their status, their reputations, their hard-earned standard of living — and they have to act. For them, their choice is clear. They know what they have to do, and they do it.
Of course, it’s far simpler for them to act to get out of their tight spot, than it is for all of us to do something about ours. All they have to do is get that corpse out of their apartment. Well, yeah, maybe that’s not so simple, but you know what I mean. Getting a dead body out of your bedroom is a much more doable task, than completely altering the way you live your life, earn your money, participate in your community, etc. , in hopes of keeping the planet alive and sustainably viable.
But we do share an awful lot in common with Paul and Christina.
And a lot of us are feeling a huge burden of responsibility to do something to right our listing ship… while we still can.
Here’s the lesson, though: We can make all the changes we want in the short term, but unless we make the kinds of changes that we can keep going, and unless we put the proper supports in place for our changes to really stick, we’re just not going to have a lasting positive impact. We may think we can, but we won’t.
Paul and Christina succeeded in getting themselves out of that tight spot. They followed the instructions they were given. They did as they were told. They change their lives, they made different choices, they wore different clothes.
What they didn’t do, is build a life around themselves that could actually sustain their decisions. They still lived in the same place. They still worked the same jobs. They were still surrounded by the same people they’d been around before. None of their immediate or extended circle shared their newfound commitment to Doing Right. No one in their community was their to keep them on the straight and narrow. They went it alone. They did it all by their lonesome.
And what happened? Eventually, it all unraveled. Not immediately. Not dramatically. Just a little bit at a time. One choice at a time. One slip-up at a time. They gradually melted back into their old ways, as the nightmares faded and the shock and horror of finding that corpse in their bed wore off.
That, to me, is the lesson of Strange Bedfellows. It’s Not that we shouldn’t take advantage of other people (although we really shouldn’t). It’s Not that we shouldn’t work for companies that place profits before people (although it would be nice if we didn’t feel like we had to). It’s Not that we should be respectful to indigenous elders and follow their guidance (though I recommend it). It’s that if you intend to make a permanent change, you have to make it possible for that change to be permanent.
If you don’t… well, what’s the point in changing at all?