Social Distancing is the buzzword of the week. I’m not a fan of the term. It feels so isolating. It is isolating, especially for those of us who live alone.
Many people are comparing this time to 9/11 and other major traumatic events. Although there are some similarities, there is one huge difference.
This is a new twist. The city never felt this quiet, not even after 9/11. After 9/11 and in the wake of other major events, we congregated. We huddled. We gathered together. This is our instinct as human beings: when we experience rough times, we gather in community. For prayer, meditation, cocktails, watching television as a group, or just being.
Human beings are inherently social creatures. Community gives us a sense of belonging and comfort. Safety. Gathering is what we do instinctively in times of trauma or grief.
Gathering in Times of Trauma
It hasn’t been even 2 months since Kobe Bryant and others died in a tragic helicopter crash in Los Angeles. In the immediate aftermath of news of that tragedy, fans flocked to the Staples Center in L.A. with flowers, candles, jerseys, and other mementos, to lay down a shrine to their hero.
Kobe’s fans were drawn to the Staples Center not by any announcement of some public event but by an internal magnet that drew them to the site where other fans would gather.
Community. Connection. Comfort.
Those who were further back in the crowds outside the Staples Center passed their phones to the people at the front, who happily took photos for them.
Think about this for a moment:
A group of strangers gathered en masse in a public place. People passed their phones to strangers to snap pictures. Each phone was touched by several hands.
This happened in our country. This year. Only 7 weeks ago.
Oh, how the world has changed.
Necessary, Not Normal
Now, going through another trauma and more loss, we are forced to silo in our containers. When we leave, we are to remain at least 6 feet apart. Careful not to touch others or come too close lest we infect someone or become infected and pass on the virus.
As socially responsible, conscious human beings, we have an ethical duty to act in a way that will safeguard our health and the health of those we meet. Keeping an appropriate physical distance is part of that obligation, and each of us must do our part.
But there is a toll to this. Isolation and loneliness carry their own health risks.
Human beings need to be together. We need touch. We need community.
As I reached out to friends and clients today to check on how they’re doing, many told me they are adjusting to the “new normal.”
Let’s not harbor any illusions: although these physical distancing measures may be necessary to protect our collective health and slow the spread of this virus, nothing about this is normal.
Human beings are wired to seek community and companionship. It’s how we survive through the hard times.
Let’s not make isolation the new normal.
Even while putting physical distance between us, we must remain connected. It’s the only way to survive.