It seems a decade ago that I went to Florida to write. I didn’t know how cold it was in January, but I was surprised that it was not as much fun to spend a month alone as I had expected. I had friends there, as we met several times, but my greatest joy was walking four miles a day along the beach. I didn’t know how much of this year would be spent alone.
There are three words I use to describe the experience of being alone; isolation, loneliness and solitude. Luckily for me, I had taken the Road Scholar week in Kentucky learning about Thomas Merton, one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century. Thomas Merton had become a monk in, of all places, Louisville, Kentucky. He took a vow of silence, except for his classes. Nine times a day he returned to the sanctuary to worship. He was so skillful a writer that the church gave him free rein on what he wrote. They were happy with the income and he was prolific. Because of this man, I was able to see the value of being alone.
While the virus raged around me, spiritual leaders were urging patience, tolerance, service and love to each other. People were cranky. For example, one lady at the grocery store yelled at another because she violated the six-foot rule.
Sometime in March, I even felt estranged from my children for personal reasons. I faced the existential question, what is the meaning of my life? Overnight, I got the answer. I am here to love and serve and that is enough.
My walks every day were to stay physically fit, but I was pleasantly surprised when people I didn’t know raised a hand in greeting. Everyone was feeling estranged. Our governmental leaders repeated We’re all in this together, and we were.
Technology proved to be our friend. Facebook video chats, FaceTime on Apple phones, Skype and Google Hangouts were quickly outpaced by a new kid on the block: Zoom. We quit missing our friends and found them available online, with accommodations for time zones. Seeing friends in South Africa and the Netherlands felt close. Not only could we make visual contact with our friends, we could listen to the Dalai Lama over breakfast. Suddenly another aspect of the WWW became apparent. Organizations could post videos online for all to see. We had again more information than we could ever use, but now we were accessing it from home.
If we were lucky enough to have the resources to do so. The challenge for the next decade has become abundantly clear. Everyone must have equal access to such technology, to adequate health care, and to education.
I don’t think the lessons from the plague will be lost any time soon, but we will have to fight for the rights of others, something we may not be comfortable with. We are all in this together and we will take care of each other. That is my mantra for the future.
This blog is a contributor to Hoagies Blog Hops. This month’s hop will be found at www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_2020_year_of.htm