The Consolation in Isolation

Spiritual Smart Aleck


“There is no guidebook for living through this, but we will, and we are.”

“We’ve seen some beautiful things emerge from this time of tragedy.”

“We as a people, are really beginning to see that as it turns out, we need each other.”

“We’re going to get through this together.”

“The pain we feel today will be the strength we feel tomorrow.”

~ “Do you know what all of those statements have in common? They are all quotes from refugees that I’ve met over my years doing humanitarian work and those statements are so relevant to us all right now.” – Aid worker in Syria

Perhaps you have noticed that since the shelter in place rules have come down, many people are discovering unexpected feelings of happiness, unity, and community, and a new closeness with their families.

I thought that might be a first world phenomenon, until I read that dispatch from my friend working with refugees in Syria, refugees who have fled their homes which are now rubble, refugees who have lost family and friends to bombing.

The human spirit is a crazy thing, isn’t it, finding beautiful things in tragedy?

In this country, we are not fleeing war, we are fleeing a virus, and many of us are living life at a slower rhythm. We are not waking up to an alarm, stressing all day to meet expectations while trying to stay afloat in the fire swamp of office politics with its rodents of unusual size. Not chauffeuring the kids to lessons, sports, etc., rushing to make dinner, helping with homework, rushing to get chores done, rushing to night classes or meetings, having sex if it’s a sex night, maybe getting some sleep, getting up and doing it all over again.

Or some variation of that run-like-hell schedule.

Nope. It’s all different. Maybe you’re working at home. Maybe you don’t have a job anymore. Maybe you have kids at home, perhaps home schooling, perhaps doing online school.

Maybe you are retired, and life hasn’t changed that much, except for not being able to gather with friends. Perhaps you are an artist, a writer, a musician, and you have been doing solitary work at home or in a studio for years. No more rehearsals or classes right now.

Before the industrial revolution kicked off, the human raced pooped along in its tribal village way for thousands of years. In the early 1800s we had to begin to adjust to spinning jennies, and then steam engines, railroads and factories, steamships, automobiles, the typewriter, the telephone, electric light so we could work longer hours, and before you knew it, aeroplanes, modern war, the Spanish flu, the Roaring Twenties followed by the Great Depression followed by World War II.


My cohort – the baby boom – was born into the mid-20th century and grew up with the Cold War, rock and roll, and the fear of nuclear annihilation, followed by Gen X, Gen Y, the Millennials, honestly, I have not kept track of all the Gens and their labels.

Comes now the novel coronavirus, mowing down people all over the world.

Normal life has come screeching to a halt, except for medical caregivers and other essential occupations, of course. They are literally working themselves to death. To. Death.

There are people who think the virus is bogus, just a little flu. They go on doing what they please, when and where they please, and they ain’t wearing no stinking face masks. That would be fine, if they weren’t making other people sick, and if there weren’t innocent people who love and depend on them.

Most of us are staying home and following the rules when we go out. We wear masks, and we keep our distance from other people.

We live this new slow rhythm of life, which is somehow … friendlier. Technology and progress ripped us away from our family and village roots, developing much faster than humans were able to evolve. Our great jobs, our dashing about, our always being tired, living for the pursuit of the almighty dollar and power – tain’t natural, not for people who still have their souls.

So we isolate and move more slowly. With the internet we can stay in touch with people and have online appointments and meetings and conversations and church services and other gatherings.

I am not saying technology is bad. I think we need to run technology, instead of technology running us, that’s all. Technology is saving lives, and technology will defeat the novel coronavirus.

In the meantime, slowing down and finding the beautiful gifts in this tragedy is a good thing.
One last thing: rest in peace, John Prine. Thank you for the beautiful gifts of your songs, and for who you were, and how we became better because of you.