How are you doing? What changes have you made? When will the pandemic end? Have you received the Covid-19 vaccination yet? These questions have been raised millions of times during this dark winter.
I realize how lucky I’ve been compared to millions of others. I’m retired, so no worries about being laid off, no exposure to contagious diseases in a work environment. My children are grown and living elsewhere. Consequently, I have a degree of freedom not experienced during earlier decades of my life. My wife and I can pretty much look after ourselves.
Nevertheless, the coronavirus pandemic has brought changes to my life. Most are small, but some are significant, perhaps more in thought than in action. Small changes in daily routines that are widely shared with others: sheltering-in-place – cooped up – during the first half of last year; fewer big-store visits, but the mail carrier brings more online purchases than had been customary; more walking on an outdoors track and healthier, though more sporadic, eating – meaning less fast food and more home cooking.
Still other changes: no friends over for dinner; no gym visits; skipped doctor’s appointments, which will continue until two doses of vaccine take hold; watching more “breaking news” reports that at times leave me muttering – how about “solid news” just now?
For over a year I’ve missed family gatherings with children who live in Los Angeles and Chicago. Church services have been “virtual” with smaller attendance than before the pandemic set in. Will the decline extend into post-pandemic months and years? I wonder. “Virtual” is better than nothing, but for me at least, the blessings of online services are not equivalent to those of face-to-face gatherings.
The pandemic has brought home a stronger wish to socialize – perhaps more precisely, being with people in meaningful ways. How often I’ve reflected on Aristotle’s dictum that man is a social animal. We can’t live without society. We want to share thoughts and experiences, and to enjoy feedback from others. What’s lost is day-by-day learning through dialogue.
Offhand, I’m not sure that I’ve interacted with anyone new in recent months. Fortunately, my coffee group of ten meets once a week – in person, outside last summer and fall, but now by zoom. I’m glad for that hour and a half, even with our faces displayed like “Hollywood Squares,” the old tic-tac-toe game in which celebrities vied for prizes. The purpose is to connect. Yet background scenes can distract, and it’s difficult to look people in the eye. Emotionally it’s a rung or two below meeting in person.
As the pandemic continued, my appreciation of the selflessness of others grew – an immense gratitude for the courage of front-line workers who sacrifice so much, risking their own health; for the doctors, nurses, and residents that genuinely care for the sick and dying. In fact for all those who must interact directly with the Covid-afflicted each day.
The pandemic has also affected my ideas. Something within has broadened, for I’m emerging somewhat altered from the person I was a year ago. It’s the awareness of our shared humanity in an interconnected world. The pandemic, with over a hundred million cases worldwide, has contextualized that understanding in a more solid way – even as opposition to globalism grows louder, and even as major countries are becoming more inward looking.
Zachary Karabell, host of the podcast “What Could Go Right,” correctly reminds us that while globalism is “easy to hate (and) convenient to target,” it is “impossible to stop.” As in the apocryphal story of King Canute trying to stop an incoming tide to prove what he already suspected: it could not be done.
Covid-19, with its microscopic complex of pathogens, is the latest reminder that globalization barrels forward; what happens in one place can happen everywhere, almost immediately. The sensible message is that our national well-being lies not in thinking that “going it alone” strategies work to our advantage, but in actively cooperating with nations to protect our common interest.
Ron Lora, a native of Bluffton, is professor emeritus of history at the University of Toledo. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.