Much is quite rightly being made of the stress many endure in these difficult times. Especially those of us who find ourselves literally self isolating : alone. It is accepted that this puts a strain on the mental health of many people. We are – by and large- made to be part of social groupings. It is within such settings we are meant, on the whole, to develop and thrive.
Be it by way of family, a circle of friends or colleagues; or community or society. It is where we find common bonds and thrive with the help and encouragement of others. We find a common purpose and personal fulfillment. By which we claim a stake in the whole and feel useful to others. It is this feeling of being a part of the group that isolation robs us of and can bring on the loneliness that can be so depressing.
Modern technology can play a significant part in alleviating these negative feelings and keep us in touch with those we miss, even though nothing is a substitute for physical interaction. After all the very blueprint of creation demands that we work together: “lt is not good for the world that people be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Being alone need not be all doom and gloom. It can take us out of the rat race that peer pressure and the demands of society drag us unwilling into. Alone, at home, we need not be worried or influenced by what society demands. What we think is expected of us. We are free to think for ourselves.
This is the essence of the real person. The criteria by which we gauge the people we are is not to be by comparing ourselves to others rather judging whether or not we are satisfied we live by our own ideal standards.
The Rabbis in their medieval guide to ethics tell us that the wise person is not someone who knows more than others but one who is prepared to learn from anyone else. The truly wealthy person is not richer than others but is so satisfied with what he has that he needs nothing else. The powerful person is not stronger than others, but one who is strong enough to resist temptation.
The most outstanding person is not the leader of the pack in the rat race. It is someone who, determined to live according to the right priorities and does not bend to peer pressure. In these days when we find ourselves isolated from society when fashion and trends are not being impressed on us. When we are beginning to (re) evaluate our priorities. This being alone can give us the space and time to determine what we want in our lives and give us the resolve to live by it when we are out of lockdown. Let the new norm that shall prevail after this plague is over be one of which we can stand proud and which will benefit society.
In memory of John Manuel OBM and all who have passed during this pandemic.