Too Close and Too Far

March 20th, 2020

There is nothing like spending a lot of time in close proximity with my loved ones to make me realize how dysfunctional I am. The members of our family get along well…for short periods of time. After a while, people tend to get on each other’s nerves, and it gets a little nuts. We aren’t used to the idea of being together for an indefinite amount of time. This is new.

Up until now we have lived together, but not necessarily spent that much time together. Karin would go out to her knitting groups. I would do volunteer work. The girl we love would go to meetings and therapy sessions, and then spend time at the gym. So, we would actually be in the same place for only brief periods. We had enough time to interact, but not enough time to piss each other off. When we did hang out, we often did in places away from home. We didn’t feel shut in. It all worked pretty well.

Well, that lifestyle is over for now. We have to be in the same house most of the time, and we have to deal with each other. Each of us has carved out some personal territory. Sometimes we do things together. Sometimes we act like we were all on different planets. It will take us some time to adjust to social distancing.

The flip side of the situation is that we are separated from friends, many of whom are nearby. We can’t go to the Hillside Coffee House and hang out with our buddies. We can’t go to daily Mass with people from our church. We can’t just get in the car, go some place, and spend time other humans. This sucks.

I am told that I can interact with all sorts of people online. This is true to a certain degree. I guess I am trying to do that right now. However, going on Facebook or writing a blog post is not at all the same as sitting across from a person and having a freewheeling conversation. There is more spontaneity involved in a face-to-face interaction with another person. There is more soul. There is more intimacy.

Isaac Asimov wrote a book called The Naked Sun. It was a science fiction novel about a planet called Solaria. There were only 20,000 inhabitants of this planet, and none of them ever had any physical contact with anyone else. They viewed holograms of each other when they absolutely had to communicate. Asimov’s description of the population of Solaria was in a way prescient. He was explaining what it would be like to live in a world that took social distancing to its logical conclusion. The book was very disturbing to me. It still is.

We are not to the point where we totally keep away from other humans, but we are getting there. I remember, when I was still working, that there was a woman in the office who would rather send me an email than walk three steps from her cubicle to speak to me. How often do we text somebody rather than call them or visit them?

This coronavirus crisis encourages us to dig ourselves deeper in our individual cocoons.

When it’s all over, will we come out again?



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