Condolences for Class
Updated: Nov 5
Like the Indigenous communities that give Condolences before making important decisions, I write this post to lay bear the emotions we all share no matter your opinion on whether class should be in-person, online, or some combination of the two. Following in their tradition, I do so to bind our hearts before our minds. This way, when we do think it is heartfelt, it is not heartless.
Fear: the fear of loss. This loss includes loss of the life that is housed by our body. The fear is stoked by unceasing reports of death and dying, constant reminders to protect ourselves, and for some, witnessing the disease decimate our bodies or the bodies of those we love. Without life, we cannot live.
But, in addition to fearing the loss of life, we also fear the loss of living. Like life, the body houses living: we use our body to be places we haven’t been, exist by experiencing with all our senses, and connecting with the Earth and all her Creation. Without being beside one another, we lose a part of ourselves: we cannot live in Ubuntu (“I am because We are”), because when we are apart, We ceases to be. Without life we cannot live, but what is life without living?
Duty: the duty that follows fear. While Duty isn’t the right word, what I mean is that when we fear losing, we hold on tighter to the things we still have. We hold on to life by holding our bodies back from each other; we hold on to living by bringing our bodies closer together. In this way, our different duties drive us apart.
Grief: the grief that follows loss. The losses we carry are the same losses that we feared most: loss of life and loss of living. In this way, we all grieve the things that were supposed to be but never were.
This fourth emotion is set apart because unlike the others, it comes from our experience with the people, not the pathogen, in our lives.
Betrayal: the betrayal I refer to is the betrayal that follows broken promises. Us McGillians were told that the University would protect us using distancing measures. Then, that directive was changed too close to the beginning of classes for all of us to properly be or feel heard; for all of us to feel like our life is safe the way we were told we would.
Us McGillians were also promised an in-person semester; many uprooted their lives accordingly. Then, some of us became sick, and some of us stayed away so as not to become sick. The absence that we are living is happening too quickly for all of us to properly be or feel heard; for all of us to feel like we can live the way we were told we could.
Indigenous traditions made decisions by consensus. However, this consensus does not live only at the end of talks. The Consensus at the end is a Consensus of Minds; but at the start, through Condolences, we strive reach a Consensus of Hearts.
And so, these are my Condolences. I invite your Condolences too, and with them, hope to reach our
Consensus of Hearts.