I went to a Starbucks with a friend the other day, when asked for ‘my name for the order’ I replied “Wilson, and can I ask you a favor please? I’m a little hard of hearing at the moment, when our coffee is ready would you mind calling my name in your best booming Tom Hanks voice?”
My friend is a therapist and as we waited, I turned and commented:
“There certainly is no shortage of crazy going on with all this COVID-19 new world order bullshit eh? Your business must be booming”
Her reply made me think “No, but there sure is a shortage of available help!”
Social distancing, confinement and mask wearing has created more than a physical distance between us. It has atrophied one of our most primary needs – to feel a part of -to connect.
Added to these protocols is the change for most of us in our work life – which we all too often allow to define us. Where we do it, how we do it and who we do with, in most cases has been dramatically altered.
Further, the other third of our waking lives- our social life– has equally been turn on its ear.
Closed are the restaurants, decimated are the daily water cooler connections, beer league hockey, even the community of the classroom within Universities has been redefined as 4 people trapped in a basement apartment watching Zoom.
Heartbreak is rampant, as birthdays pass without contact, graduations pass without congratulatory hugs and deaths pass without the closure of gathering.
All this has amped up our sense of isolation and detachment to an 11.
Is not isolation and detachment the path to enlightenment chosen by wise monks? They seem respected and serene, so, what’s the problem?
‘The problem’ occurs when we do isolation and detachment not in the pursuit of something but when it is forced upon us. Remember “The Box” in Cool Hand Luke?
“What we have here is a failure to Communicate!”
And the “problem” is subversive and insidious.
Many like to call it Covid Crazy- and as we all know it’s raging more epidemically than the actual pandemic itself.
Evidenced initially by the gold rush to buy toilet paper, we all became consumed with a me-first-protectionist-survival-mode mentality. This was followed by an “us versus them” divisive flame -which is further fanned, as we now know, by the “social” media we use to “connect”. Now it would appear we have arrived at the spot on this Country Fair Fright House Ride, I like to call the “Fuck it! Fork in the road”
Cute little euphemistic names apart, the impact on us as individual elements within the blanket of society is not to be underestimated.
Anger seems to surface more freely as a symptom of the frustration with heartbreak we all feel as a result of life not unfolding as we had grown to expect.
The new normal has exiled many among us to spend far too much time in the confines of our own mind, which for most is a dangerous neighborhood never to be ventured into alone.
Let’s go back to the Monks for a moment, while isolation and detachment can produce serenity, they would also tell you that the road to serenity meanders through A Wizard of OZ type of Haunted Forest of the mind, BEFORE arriving at the awareness that the mind and feelings need not to define us.
Sadly, in detached isolation many do follow the first whispers of the mind and “Turn Back”, or at least momentarily turn away.
The most poignantly clear evidence of which is witnessed within in the escapist solutions that are most readily available to todays’ society:
In a recent study in Quebec daily substance use have gone from pre confinement levels of 11% to 27%-, https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/substance-use-is-up-but-montreal-health-officials-say-people-aren-t-seeking-help-1.5185068 .
Online purchasing has shot through the roof, arguably not simply because of the obvious convenience/necessity but also due to the escapist tickle that creates the endorphin rush of clicking BUY online.
Bulk buying is also a new trend. Buying more than we need reflects our will to feel surrounded by supplies pre apocalypse. Ok while this may be hardwired within us to ensure our survival, recently I listened to a report on a new trend “Convenience Store Bulk Buying”
How many cases of overpriced Sour Patch Kids packs can one consume prior to slipping into a hyperglycemic coma?
Wait don’t answer that- I will let you know in my next post.
The point is, while the pursuit of serenity, may pass through isolation, detachment and even silence, the actual goal can only be achieved through growth of connection. Often as part of a community, be it fraternity, sorority or LGBT cribbage club.
Isolation without a purposeful sense of attachment to a connection greater than oneself will inevitably lead to the autopilot world of “every man for himself”
The good news is that we are genetically coded to connect.
Over the millennia we have been far more successful as individuals within a species when we were genuinely connected as individuals within a community.
I’m not referring to the romantic kind, I’m referring to the Fearlessly SELF-less kind
It’s the other direction of the aforementioned “Fuck it! fork in the road”
Only through selfless & fearless love can we have a shot at the ‘monk like’ experience of isolation and detachment as we simultaneously grow from within.
The brilliant light of serenity at the darkest times, shines through the simplest gestures: encouraging the struggling artist in all of us, by acknowledging and sharing the artform of any individual with others.
This can easily be done by telling a friend about a local tea store, giving business to the corner restaurant as they set up a takeout counter, subscribing to the works of an online artist or simply sharing an moment with a stranger that leaves you both smiling.
Upon so doing, we instantly become aware of how much more important our own position is, woven into the fabric of something greater is than our self obsessed attempts at individuality.
Not only will this raise self worth and thus lower anger, escapism and the frequency of finger flips to others, more profoundly when we make this effort to stop self centered scrolling and reach outward, we satiate the most primal need we have, the one that roots itself at the moment of our conception- The need to be connected.
I turned to see the Barista reaching out with my coffees-smiling from ear to ear and heart to heart.