Think about these qualities a person can have:
- Personal resilience
- Rugged individualism
These three character traits are often cited in North American colonial culture as the pinnacle of human performance. Using the same paradigm, a person with these qualities can face and conquer any struggle in life.
This being the case, anyone who values these qualities can see how North Americans are faring in the ultimate litmus test of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider our circumstances in the last six months:
- Children are doing their school by themselves, with just 1 or 2 hours of instruction daily.
- Workers are completing their usual work day from home, in offices set up on the corner of their kitchen table or a spare room. Many homes need several places for these “offices” and another for the “classroom” or “lecture hall”, for those in university.
- Teachers, professors, supervisors are all wondering “how things are going” with one student or employee while on Zoom with another.
- We are all 6 feet apart from each other, trying to find ways to ease our isolation, each of us in our own lonely struggle.
These tasks require personal resilience, self-reliance and “rugged” individualism. How is your lonely struggle going? Do you have an exercise routine that makes it easier? Maybe a cupcake recipe to share? Mindfulness?
Remember when we all longed to spend more time with our families? Well, here we are. Together in many ways and yet far apart.
The distractions of the world are unavailable, except in a weird virtual world in which our phones deliver messages of hope and encouragement in sound bites and memes. We can “visit” with family and friends, speaking with them as if they were in the same room, except that they are on a screen. We can attend concerts and theatre, “live”, but not “in person”.
So much of this life is “like real life”, except that it’s not. We are living in a true alternate reality. I can speak with my daughter and attend a church gathering with her and listen to her sing, but it would be weird for each of us to set up our devices and “sit together”, each on our own sofas, each watching the same TV program on our own TV’s or screens, or just sitting for several hours together, chatting when we think of something. We used to do just that: quietly sit together, joyful in each other’s presence.
It is healing to be able to sit with someone for a whole day, not doing anything special, just being. For those of us with a partner, or family with us, we can do this, but, if you live alone, or when family members are in another “bubble”, we no longer have this comfort. That is our current lonely struggle.
For those who value personal resilience, self-reliance, and rugged individualism, there was a redemption in knowing that you had overcome a lonely struggle. But surely we have all now learned that there is nothing redemptive about a lonely struggle.
It’s just lonely and a struggle.
(The Amercian artist, Edward Hopper, was considered one artist whose images depicted the isolation of modern life. Reference)