May 5, 2021 via Zoom
Moderator: Bill Byrne, Moderator
Dr. Gordon Haist, Presenter
Betsy Doughtie handled technical logistics of the meeting of about 25. Bill Byrne described the format as a “conversation” rather than the typical lecture followed by questions and answers. Gordon Haist, Ethics Society president, retired professor of philosophy, who studied solitude and isolation as a graduate student, offered quotations from other scholars.
Without identifying every speaker, audience ideas, opinions and questions are summarized below:
“Human beings need to belong. The pandemic has prevented our belonging. As we consider our own responses to this period of isolation, let’s consider how others have handled it.” The TV show “Frontline” interviewed: 1) a woman in Iceland sorely distraught because of her inability to connect with her dying mother; 2) a woman frustrated and tired with three children living in an apartment, with no help, and no way to get out.
On the basis of various comments, as a group we conceded that we retirees who live here have had an easier time than many others during as we have protected ourselves from COVID-19.
In response to Gordon’s request for reports on how solitude has benefitted some, we heard: 1) Some families, including some married couples, have bonded more tightly; 2) Individuals have had time to study things they otherwise might not have had time to study; 3) The inability to enjoy going out to eat has enabled some to learn to enjoy cooking as well as to take advantage of restaurants’ takeout meals; 4) Zoom has enabled new experiences including more frequent connections with distant family members, plus Trivia games heretofore unimaginable; 5) More time alone has given us time to figure out on what we really care about and focus on those things; 6) Donations have increased to charities assisting the less fortunate with food, shelter and other necessities.
Answering Gordon’s request for reports on isolation’s adverse impacts, we heard: 1) Long-time marriages have in many cases been stressed by “too much togetherness.” 2) Less activity has led some to more drinking and increased risk of addiction; 3) Loss of control of one’s life had caused anxiety over the many unknowns about the pandemic including especially how and when it will end; 4) Disappointment has weighed heavily over the inability to enjoy new adventures through travel; 5) After being separated from friends, family and groups to which we belong for more than a year, we find it awkward to try to re-engage; 6) Our social contacts are much diminished; 7) Adversity has hit hardest at those whose work involved close contact with others.
Long-term effects to society, although still a mystery, are expected to be quite real for many people. Anxiety disorders and depression are up 30 percent, according to one study. Rampant loneliness can be a health threat. Dramatic losses of income and failures of many businesses have permanent impacts on some.
A couple of participants brought up these troubling truths: 1) It is possible that an increase of COVID variants and other factors including cold weather will call for re-isolation in a few months; 2) Climate changes and other natural factors may trigger future pandemics for which we are unprepared.
Some participants commented that the COVID “lockdown” has forced many of us to realize how dependent we are on others and how dependent some others are on each of us.
Thanks to Gordon, Bill and all our participants for an excellent meeting and thanks to Betsy Doughtie for Zooming our meeting and to Fran Bollin for her outstanding summary.