We have chosen self-imposed isolation, (quarantine), responsive to the sudden advent of the infectious, viral disease, COVID-9, as instructed by the Nation’s recognized health experts. Ironically, this hiatus of normal activity has arrived, simultaneously, with the perennial, socially unrestricted, college break, the student’s, happily anticipated, reprieve, “Spring Break;” obviously, the comparable scenarios are poles apart.
In stark contrast, to the student holidays,” quarantine” means an enforced lockdown of the context and lifestyle, of the affected individual, since it imposes an impassable detour to his interaction with other members of society, in business, commuting to work, with fellow employees, colleagues, clients or customers, tradesmen and friends. Thus, it is, as stated, thus, worlds apart from the context of the concurrent Spring Break; the latter, a happily anticipated, time limited, period of social recreation. To submit to the status of quarantine, by contrast, is effectually, to surrender oneself to a self-imposed, indeterminate sentence, without parole, to an unexperienced, restricted, confinement.
The need for the prophylactics of quarantine, was the etiological presentment, of a previously unknown, infectious virus, COVID-19 (“Corona”), easily spread, from person to person, especially, by saliva, or emitted droplets from sneezing, and coughing. The recognized experts on the subject of infectious diseases, including the most prominent of whom, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have uniformly prescribed, general sanitary protocols, for the average American citizen; but the more stringent recommendation, of isolation, or quarantine, for older citizens, especially those challenged with another condition. As indicated, we qualify, under both latter criteria.
In view of the novelty of this previously unknown pathogen, and the consequential absence of relatable scientific data or record of empirical experience, no scientific or medical expert is enabled to hazard an estimate, as to the duration of the threat. Admittedly, human life is ephemeral, and so it would appear salutary, to do something, of personal value, rather than irresponsibly, waste whatever precious time during which the quarantine will be medically, necessary. The sole beneficial point of consideration in the midst of the present hazardous and worrisome period, is that we are not distracted from thought, by the frenetic activity of our usual routine, and so, have the opportunity to use the wait time, beneficially, rather than irretrievably, waste it.
With the intent to furnish the necessary perception, we would offer the following fictitious, (but typical) scenario, of the prevailing profile of observed, routine life, for many people, albeit, free from the necessity of quarantine:
Mr. Joseph Regime wakes up faithfully, on weekdays, 6:30 A.M. for work. He energetically, brushes his teeth, skillfully shaves, showers, dresses for the office, and then greets his sleepy wife, Mrs. Ona Regime, in the kitchen, for a quick breakfast. Their two children, Linda and Joe, Jr., as expected, appear, as ever, at the conclusion of Joe’s coffee, but, in enough time for Joe, before leaving for work, to give a perfunctory kiss to each of them and their mother. At work, Joe morphs into his practiced office persona, and, after greeting his fellow employees with a curt, but friendly, nod, dives into his work, grabbing his pad and the telephone. During the period of mid-morning to noon, Joe casts several glances at the office clock, impatient for the arrival of the lunch break. The afternoon is equally, busy for Joe, the pendency of which, he furtively, snatches several looks, for the arrival of 5P.M. quitting time. At home, the children being the typified modern, teenagers, little is said of any value, during dinner, the children, both, distractedly focused, on their personal smart phones, and responding to all parental attempts at inter personal conversation, with mono-syllabic, inarticulate, grunts.
Conversation between the adults, themselves, is, as usual, meaningless, robotic and trite. At some point Joe, retreats, predictably, to his favorite chair in the living room, and when Ona has fully loaded and switched on the dishwasher she, routinely, joins her husband in the living room, facing the T.V. screen, until bedtime.
Were Joe or Ona, obliged, at any time, to be placed in quarantine, the quality of their life, would not be significantly diminished; having, long go, replaced normal, meaningful, married “life,” with what can be seen as an amicable co-tenancy.
Those of us who are fortunate enough possess more mature and sensitive approaches to our lives and cultivate divergent interests, lead more acceptable, and cerebrally active lives. There is present, in this preferred, marital context, a striving for personal advancement, understanding and acquisition of wisdom. Yet, it is, the sensitive and aware people, that have the danger of experiencing quarantine, in the manner of inmates, doing hard time in solitary confinement.
Certainly, any and all conversations on stimulating subjects, with our spouse, or partner can continue, in quarantine. In addition, there are our, books, recorded music and other worthwhile diversions, now, with adequate opportunity, to enjoy. Moreover, for those individuals with a sense of mature identity, introspection and an adequate degree of sensitivity, the long and joyless sentence of quarantine, might afford, at last, a useful opportunity to, valuably use the personal time, rather than merely endure the isolation.
May we suggest, that this period of solitude, if applicable, may finally, and profitably, be used to (if not done adequately in the past), introduce ourselves; to the internal, private meditative person we, in fact, are; the one that wears the theatrical mask of parent, spouse, professional, close friend, and our societal persona. Is it a good time, at long last, to privately, reach and evaluate internally, examined, private judgments of our self, (kindly and objectively), as well as others in our life. We, in solitude, have sufficient opportunity to examine our long held precepts, political, secular or religious, our assessments of others, and to audit, long term perception of ourselves and others.
The occasion of the current, and unfortunate need for solitude, can best be utilized, by a person of insight and intelligence, as, a rare opportunity, for an undistracted, analysis, of one’s self and of others. Life has been shown to be exponentially improved, by the knowledge of oneself. Socrates famously instructed, “Know thyself.”
A useful and candid, inner knowledge of the self, may be an achievable and worthwhile endeavor,only, when we are solitary, and away from the “madding crowd.”
* ADDENDUM. Apologies to the 19th Century author, Thomas Hardy, for the title.