C hancellor Angela Merkel has called on Germany to reduce all social contacts to a minimum. This has been deemed to be the only effective way to stop an exponential spread of the coronavirus.
Although it remains to be seen exactly what she meant by, “social distancing”, certainly what she did not mean was that we would all do well to take refuge in splendid isolation; breaking all contact with our fellow human beings. No, she can not have been thinking of that, what in fact she must have been thinking of was for those living in Germany to reduce all and any physical contact, not spiritual-emotional connections. For it is precisely these connections that always prove so many times more important than anything else when we are consumed by the grip of a crisis.
When the coronavirus roams the cities, bringing disaster, it is even more important for humans not to be alone. Yes, even if being alone is perhaps the safest approach to protect ourselves against the virus, loneliness is probably the worst condition in which to be immersed when facing the challenges that are now happening among us.
“It is not good that man should be alone,” is written in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. And “two are better than one alone” completes the so-called Kohelet. How true this is is becoming clearer daily: it is so good to know that there are people around you, people who offer encouragement or comfort; people on whom you can rely when you are hit by the virus yourself and there is no one else around to look after you. There they will be, helping to do the shopping or, when it gets really tough, go to the hospital. Being on your own at times like these is not a good prospect – it is far too high a price to pay for the supposed freedom that an unattached life deceptively holds.
No matter how old-fashioned it may sound, this new reality reveals how valuable the family – or partnership – is, even if they sometimes do force us to make unpleasant compromises.
COVID-19 clearly demonstrates that it is better to decrease your own demands and find a compromise with others, than to be left alone in times of crisis; especially in old age.
Corona can teach us that it is good to look for different modes of social life, to find then embrace community and solidarity with others: In small social associations quarantine will be easier to survive than being alone; perhaps in the very near future small senior citizens’ flats – where members look after and support each other, but where they can also withdraw into their own area in the case of a crisis – will be established. The great advantage of this would be that no one would have to feel lonely and abandoned. Not the worst prospect, certainly since so many societies see loneliness in old age as an increasing problem. One suspects that even Chancellor Merkel would agree as she herself now experiences the reality of quarantine.