“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.”
— C.G. Jung
No, I am neither a COVID-19 denier or fake news evangelist. But my favourite public broadcaster has helped me recognize that “social distancing” is a decidedly unfit misnomer. That epiphany flowed from a CBC interview with a healthcare professional who preferred the term, “physical distancing”. And, if you think about it, it makes very good sense. After all, thanks to technology, never has it been easier to maintain social connections, even with those from whom we’ve become physical separated.
This morning, for example, I spent three hours listening (on CBC, again) to the encouraging voices of of various otherwise strangers over coffee in my kitchen. And yesterday, though I now live in Vancouver, a simple “How are you doing?” text from a former colleague in Toronto led to a wonderful reconnection. Over the next few hours I had exchanged emails with friends and family from three different provinces. I phoned my sister for the first time in weeks. Finally, I FaceTimed with my daughter in Winnipeg before heading off to bed, and will do the same with my son in Red Deer after I finish this piece (also shared with you electronically, by the way). Socially isolated? I think not.
I am reminded of the opening lines of the Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”
True, sequestering ourselves in response to the current unfolding pandemic poses definite challenges. But for most of us, staying connected is not one of them. Never have we had more options: Facebook, Glide, Google Duo, Skype, Snapchat, WhatsApp, or even that old workhorse, the telephone, to name but a few. Those of us who crave news and information enjoy a veritable smorgasbord of reliable digital sources to supplement radio and TV. And all that extra time at home opens up opportunities to explore new diversions, or to resurrect old ones. Pull out those old paints, read a book, knit a sweater, go through old photos, play a board game, write that great novel, binge on Netflix. I watched The Godfather for the first time this week!
Bottom line: yes, do practice physical distancing, but for god’s sake stay (or get more) socially connected. Such an outstanding opportunity to do so will not last forever (we hope).