Apocalypse, and After

Newsletter No. 24

Susannah Black
Susannah Black received her BA from Amherst College and her MA from Boston University. She is an editor at Mere Orthodoxy, Plough Quarterly, Postliberal Thought and its journal New Polity, and The Davenant Press. Previously, she was an editor at Providence and Fare Forward. She's a co-founder of Solidarity Hall and The Simone Weil Center, and is on the boards of the Distributist Review, The Davenant Institute, and The Simone Weil Center. Her writing has appeared in First Things, The Distributist Review, Solidarity Hall, Providence, Amherst Magazine, Front Porch Republic, Ethika Politika, The Human Life Review, The American Conservative, Mere Orthodoxy, Fare Forward, Postliberal Thought, and elsewhere. She blogs at Radio Free Thulcandra and tweets at @suzania. A native Manhattanite, she is now living in Queens.

We’re nearly at the end of a year that has felt, sometimes, like the end of the world. And that calls for reflection: what has just happened, and what comes next?

Our two pieces this week attempt an answer.

Joel Heng Hartse offers a month-by-month retrospective of what the pandemic has been like for him as a professor, attempting to teach university students through the tragicomedy of 2020. The world ended, and then we all had to figure out how to use the hand-raise function in Zoom, which was not really on anyone’s post-apocalyptic bingo card, I don’t think.

Leah Libresco Sargeant asks us to consider that “post-apocalyptic survival drama” isn’t actually what we’ve been living through at all. Rather, she says, the story is more like “doughty band of intrepid voyagers gets on a spaceship to colonize a far planet, knowing that only their descendants will reach it”—what in sci-fi stories is known as a “generation ship.” And that takes a very different set of survival strategies.

It’s important to figure out which story you’re in. Covidtide, dramatic as it is, is a penitential season, and like all penitential seasons it will not last forever. It is a painful, strange, horrible, interesting subplot. It’s important to live this particular story arc well. But it’s also important to remember the longer story. This COVID Advent, as during every Advent, let’s try again to remind each other of the larger story that we are all living through.