Wells: So radical acceptance is about action?
Uwan: Yeah. Or even take another instance: We have over 100,000 people who have died from COVID-19. We’re gonna be barreling toward 200,000. My goodness—think about the grief that comes with that. Even grief is an act of radical acceptance, because accepting reality for what it is is hard. People are suffering. People are dealing with so many compounding issues. But denial just exacerbates our suffering. I think we see a lot of that on a macro level with the government.
Wells: Yeah. It feels like we don’t have a lot of good models for acceptance right now in the public. What I feel like I’m seeing is denial. A lot of it. Jim, what do you think?
James Hamblin: Well, I think when a person in your life dies or when there’s been a big natural disaster or an attack on a city and buildings are crumbled, then there’s this hard reality in front of you. We don’t have the physical evidence in front of us, and [the pandemic is] playing out on a timescale that makes it harder to grasp. In a situation like this one, how do you know when you’re at the point where you need to do radical acceptance?
Uwan: Yeah, I think in some ways it was well forced upon us. This pandemic really caused people to really ask some serious existential questions, like, Is this the end? At what point do we realize that losing over 100,000 people to a virus is not normal and it didn’t have to be this way? That has not been the case in South Korea. That hasn’t been the case in New Zealand. I think we really have got to reckon with this reality.
Wells: Right. At least at the federal level, we’re not having leaders model grief in a way that we’re used to seeing. So it sounds like we have to do this for ourselves, because there’s not someone showing you how we come together.
Hamblin: When I think of the role of religion in American life, it’s especially involved at life transitions—births and marriages and deaths—even for people who aren’t regularly religious. I’m wondering if we maybe need something now to mark a transition, a national radical-acceptance process.
Uwan: Yes. America is long overdue for a truth commission, a reconciliation—or conciliation, let’s say conciliation. Reconciliation implies that there was a time that we were together, or there was a time that we were unified, but there’s not really ever been a time. Even with this whole COVID-19, “we’re all in this together”—we’re not. It’s clear that we’re not in this together. And that [conciliation] would be freeing not only to black and brown people, but to white people as well. There are real chains of bondage here, and that’s because of the foundation. I’d also say that we do need something to mark the lives lost, some sort of memorial. That’s good for our souls. That’s good for our mental health, to be able to mark that and in some ways bring [us] closure. Something that marks a closure to the before so that we can move into this new future.