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Loneliness During a Pandemic

An Existential Crises

“Existential” philosophers and psychotherapists offer some ideas on how to cope with the coronavirus crises and the call for “social distancing”. We have been thrust into a situation wherein there’s a dire need to isolate ourselves in order to “flatten the curve” of hospital admissions”. Folks needing intensive care for acute coronovirus infections may overwhelm hospitals and community health resources in the near future. The hope is that we can slow down the spread of the virus by isolating ourselves in our homes. Of course, we need also to shop for food and medicine, sustain our livlihoods, supervise kids at home from closed schools, take care of those in need, and serve to assure that essential community services are available.

This commitment to ‘social distancing’ confronts us with the impact of isolation right now and the next few months of our lives. Irving Yalom, a practicioner of “existential psychotherapy” regards isolation as one of the “ultimate concerns of human existence”. Other ultimate concerns discussed by existential philosophers are mortality, freedom, and meaninglessness. Dr. Yalom explores with his clients how they cope with these concerns, because these concerns matter for our mental and physical health. In plain language isolation is ‘loneliness’. In simpler language this is ‘loneliness—-usually an unhappy state of mind to be in.

Isolation or loneliness is being deprived of social support, which is ultimately necessary for survival as food, water, air, and shelter. Social support includes a spectrum of social interactions from nurturing a child to the companionship of a stranger stting next to us on a plane. Being deprived of social support can be life threatening. Solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment, and it should be banned as a violation of basic human rights. More ordinary loneliness can kill in a number of ways including suicide, lowered immunity to infectious disease, being cut-off from information needed for survival, sleep deprivation, and stalled recovery from traumatic injury.

On the other hand, depriving someone of solitude and privacy can also be detrimental to health. Suicide and epression can be associated with not only being lonely, but being unable to be alone, or being unable to get along with oneself when alone. Thus, social support can be a double edged sword. Human aggression in groups is far more lethal and destructive than aggression from a sole perpetrator. Bullying is probably the most intense form of verbal aggression in the human arsonal—-and, of course, war is the most extreme form of collaborative human aggression. Social support that adds to quality of life in community needs to be tamed and moderated. We have recently rediscovered this need for moderation with online social networking. Online civility and moderation can prevent bullying and hysteria as we struggle with this crises, seek social support, and share information online.

Actually online social networking seems to be a blessing at our disposal in the coming weeks and months of the coronovirus crises. Even if we need to avoid face to face interactions, we can sustain and grow our NCUU congregation. Thanks to Amy for her help in posting this reflection on the NCUU website.

John Ivens

Should We Really Be Color Blind?

Reading The New Jim Crow with this congregation I became interested in the concept of color blindness as naivety at best, racism possibly.

“I don’t see color, I only see people”

This statement means: the way to end discrimination is by treating everyone equally without regard to race or ethnicity. Judging people on the content of their character, and our shared humanity. Of course.

It is not helpful to people of color to insist that race does not matter . It affects everything. I’m not picking on you. We were brought up this way.

We aren’t countering racism by saying race does not matter. Statistics show it does.

Color blindness is not able to heal racial wounds. It is a half measure, and comes from a lack of understanding how race affects people of color and society as a whole In fact CB becomes a form of racism.

Shocking? Bewildering? CB denies the negative experiences, rejects cultural heritage, by ignoring it. That is not racial progress.

It makes persons of color and their differences invisible, when they might prefer to celebrate these as a source of pride and identity. Something invisible is not discussed; conversation is turned off before it starts.

Listen to the stories, experiences, statistics about racial unfairness. Discuss our racial socialization and start unlearning it. Ont wait for a person of another race to teach us. Continue our NCUU discussions on systematic racism.

Lets become Color brave.

Summarizing Dr. Monica Williams and Jon Greenberg