Day one of Coronavirus isolation in Bavaria, Germany. The streets are bare and strangely quiet. A veil of silence has descended upon us as we wake up to our first day of non-outside activity. Like all other countries infected with this virus, German authorities do not want anyone infecting or infected. Wise move. I am lucky enough to live in a beautiful area of Bavaria, surrounded by forests and fields where I can walk and engage with nature, and most of all, reflect.
This silence has given me and probably others a chance to ponder. Amid the angst and questions on how and why, I came up with my own theories and hypothesis. I wonder if this wasn’t G-d’s way of telling us to slow down? Society was pushing us toward a precipice of personal anarchy with unfettered destructive behavior toward ourselves and others. Parents didn’t have time to parent and children caught up in zombie like technological activities did not go outside to play. Spirituality was also set aside like yesterday’s bad lunch.
As churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship close down, the faithful are rising up seeking prayer and comfort. Many who have never entered a holy place in their lives, are suddenly seeking spiritual refuge in a faith they might have ignored or rejected along the way. At a time when one would think desperation should set in; folk are bonding in fear and compassion for each other. We are joined by one common objective; fear of death. In Italy, the virus epicenter of Europe, neighborhoods are reaching out in camaraderie and support. Balcony “parties” have sprung up connecting neighbors who just a few months ago had barely known each other’s name.
Parents are staying home with their kids. Children are getting to know their parents. For some parents, this has been the most time they have spent or will ever spend together as a family. For others, besides dropping off and picking up their kids at school, they were never really involved in their education. Now they must fulfill their role of parent, educator, counselor, and companion. They are faced with the realization that Netflix, Amazon, Google, and X-Box have been raising their kids. If they had any smarts they would also realize that parenting is more than sperm donation. In a twist of fate, technology is bringing parent and child together in most unlikely circumstances. What is even more important, is the realization that the outside world is worth being a part of. Once the virus angst is over, will they learn to appreciate fresh air over a video game?
Climate change has also taken a back seat to health safety. All the good intentions in using reusable cups and utensils have been replaced by practicality and fear of contagion. Back to the disposable cups, plates, and utensils to keep the disease abay. Isolation has closed most eating establishments, restricting them to take-away service only. Currently in Bavaria, not even that “luxury” is possible. Will we see an increase in disposable garbage? Somehow I doubt it. The current situation is not conducive to frivolous “let’s order out” mentality. People are genuinely skittish and staying put. Fewer vehicles and people on the roads have also reduced pollution and traffic accidents. Maybe the occasional global isolation is beneficial to our planet.
Was the virus G-d’s wakeup call? We were being swept away in egocentric apathy that slowly moved us toward the annihilation of civil and social accountability. Technology was raised to the status of a god. The idol replaced spirituality and faith. The tables have somewhat been turned. Technology is responsible for reconnecting most of us to our faith communities. Live streaming of Catholic Masses, Shabbat gatherings, Prayer Services, and worship, has risen in demand. Communities are coming together in prayer, inspiration and hope through FaceBook, YouTube, and other social media. Isn’t it ironic that the technology we often blame for bad politics, crass entertainment, and fake news, has become our life line in desperate faith isolation?
Yesterday, I had the privilege of “attending” a Shabbat live streaming from our very small local Jewish community. The rabbi live streamed from his home. It was the perfect ending to a day of uncertainty. Another of the many ironies of the current situation; the forced isolation gave me an opportunity to participate in this wonderful event of prayer, contemplation, and celebration. A wish I’ve had for many years but never fulfilled. In the midst of a pandemic, technology and G-d gave me the chance to participate and contribute.
Reaffirmation of our faith has taken a strange course. We find ourselves seeking more involvement in faith activities than ever before. My parents who lived through WWII used to say that during the war people had a stronger sense of righteousness than they had in peacetime. I think that desperation and fear pushes us toward the one thing that is intrinsic in all of us; the urge to pray to something bigger than ourselves. Bad times make us humble.
It is relevant to ask; was the virus part of G-d’s plan? Did He need to jolt us out of our selfish reverie? Did He give the proverbial push and nudge toward self contemplation? The air is cleaner, families are closer, faith is stronger, and we have “time”. Time to read, to think, to pray, to reflect, and to connect. Families and friends are connecting in support and love. Technology is the hero. We are alone but not desolate.
G-d seemed to have subtly reinvented us. Has this pandemic given us an unlikely lesson in faith rejuvenation? Has it taught us a lesson in humility, in perseverance, in the ability to conform to a simpler life? Is this a gift in disguise? Looking back, will we cherish the temporary reprieve from a hectic life, or will this euphoria only last until the next Apple or Samsung comes out?
The coronavirus has provided us with time to pause and take a deep breath. A time to weigh in our lives and our accountability. It is a chance to lean back and discover what is relevant and what is not. For most of us, isolation has also given us an opportunity to sleep in, enjoy a morning slow cup of coffee, read a good book, or simply look out the window to observe a bird, a cloud, or a world beyond a computer screen. For others, it is probably the first time they allowed G-d into their lives. Shalom!