I have been thinking, and I find myself concerned. Not anxious, maybe troubled is a better word. Disconcerted, well aren’t we all in these exceptional and unprecedented times? But during covid-19 lockdown one recurrent element of my thinking has caused me to be particularly troubled. I am uneasy. I cannot guess the outcome. You see, I wonder how this disease is challenging what it is that makes us uniquely human. What might this illness-experience change about us, about homo sapiens, for this species the so-called wise human; what cost this absolutely appropriate and vital need to isolate? One selfish choice to break quarantine, to refuse to mask, to fornicate: and people die. I am in full agreement; selfless compassion, the force of social morality is behind this stance. Individual freedom must be subjugated to the needs of the collective, the community. It is imperative that we stop this disease spreading, we must not transmit the virus, and to do this we must not gather or meet. We must socially distance. But as I said, I am troubled.
And I am troubled because as Aristotle noted, man (sic) is by his (sic) very nature a social and political animal. Our rise to global dominance is predicated on community. We come together and represent a force that can resist saber-tooth tigers and ice ages, make ocean voyages, fly to the moon and sample rocks on Mars. We developed language and religion through mimesis, sharing time and food, wisdom, celebration and the art of living. The ability to sing and thus to quiet a fearful tired child allowed the group to hide from predators and survive. Sharing our capacities, sharing our strengths, sharing our humanity we developed our priceless co-affinity, love and compassion. I am moved to help you when you are weak and poor and fatherless (sic). And yet our millennially proven strategy and strength through sociality must itself now be eschewed if we are to combat the greatest threat of the twenty-first century (?, well a very significant one at least). Our evolutionary advantage has been turned upon us and threatens to infect us all.
Beyond the virus with its deadly pathology, its symptoms and emerging enduring side-effects, we are all plagued by isolation’s traumas. Certainly nobody is surprised at the increased in suicides, apparently accidental shootings and overdoses, at the trauma and tragedy of mounting incidents of domestic violence. But beyond our psychological anguish, what are the effects on our very beings, on our souls if you believe in such ephemera? What is the impact on our essence, on what it means to be human? We are by nature social animals and yet we have been torn apart. And speaking for myself at least, Zoom and FaceTime and WhatsApp just don’t cut it. I’m lost. I’m afraid. I’m anxious. I am bereft without community, in person, along side me, enduring together. It is here that this virus attacks my very humanity.
I have no answers, and so in truth I am more than troubled. We are by nature social and political animals, we did not evolve because we could thrive alone. What next? What angst? What devolution? What isolation and decline? What cost wise human, what cost?