BY E.M. FORTIER
No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. – John Donne
I wish I could be out there. I wish I could embrace the huggers and stand close enough to the non-huggers that I could look them in the eyes. I wish I could be out in the world where our lives are an ever changing tapestry, woven and unraveled and rewoven time and time again.
But here we are, a tapestry that has been torn at the seams and the societal loom which knits us together sits mostly motionless. Perhaps you are, as I am, perpetually fluctuating between gratitude at a forced quiet, which realigns priorities, and anguish at the uncertainties. These mixed emotions are understandable. They are not new emotions. They are not new to our time or our circumstances. What is new is the inability to be out with others – those feeling the same, even if it is to silently stand in communion with them; those who give a different perspective and a pat on the back; those who we agree with and those with whom we disagree.
Before anyone begins to fear that I am unwillingly to comply with the isolation orders given, I assure I have remained in perpetual “social distancing.” But if one wants me to espouse this is an “easy” demand, I will not comply with perpetuating that sentiment. It is not easy to be isolated. It is not our nature to be alone. I am lucky in what I have in isolation. I have my children. I have my spouse. I have my crazy animals. But I don’t have everything I once did. I do not have you, dear reader, to see and to greet openly in my daily life through town. I do not have my extended family, who I love.
Sure, we can use electronic communication – we can text and we can video conference and we can call each other; and I am grateful for the ability to use those modes of connection with others, but we cannot feel the complete fullness of life unless we are in its presence.
I have struggled with how to articulate how these times are affecting me. The other night I watched a show that described love as making a person “more.” I miss being made more through my relationships with my fellow man. I miss seeing the divine through the faces of my neighbors and witnessing the light that shines into the world from their daily personal inter-weavings with one another. I miss the fullness of life; the breath of something other than my own being surrounding me and weaving itself in my life. In realizing this is what I miss the most, I am awakened to a deeper love and gratitude for that which matters. I hope we can use that which we do have – the electronic means of communication – to foster a deeper desire to know the heart of those in our lives so that when we are physically together again, it will be an even stronger bond. I hope that instead of ripping apart the fabric of society, we can mend it into a more beautiful tapestry.