May 31, 2020, 9:02 p.m.

Distance – a binding principle?

Now we’ve all been socially distancing for the last 2 months, the weirdness of it all is still occasionally a bit jarring. So too is the prospect of the ‘new normal’ we’ll all be returning to when lockdown is gradually and more extensively eased, with images from other European countries of face masks in public and Perspex screens separating restaurant diners on the same table providing insight into what may follow here. It’s like experiencing a completely different way of life, almost like we do when we go on holiday (depending on where exactly we go), but to a far, far more extreme extent. In fact, it’s almost as if the entire human race has become distanced from planet Earth and has been temporarily transported to another planet where the inhabitants lock themselves in and only communicate with each other via their computers. Then the inhabitants slowly decide to advance initiate the process of civilisation and interact in a physical space with each other but with distance and PPE because goodness knows what diseases their fellow inhabitants may carry IRL (in real life).

Social distancing wasn’t even a thing a couple of months ago, at least not officially (though us introverts have implicitly been socially distancing since the beginning of time of course)….. Before the pandemic, the theme of distancing in general cropped up as a common thread in several areas. In self-defence, the concept of distance (specifically, an arm's length) from an attacker is important to give us space and time to respond rather than to react. In mindfulness, we aim to get distance from our thoughts and the emotions they evoke (by simply observing and accepting them), in order to respond to them rather than to react. Resistance can create so much suffering. Then I read what someone said about the particular importance of living in the moment for doctors (especially those who work in intensive care), paramedics and other emergency responders. They have to focus on the situation at hand and not think about, or let themselves be affected by, other factors or wider issues which might otherwise impede their ability to do so…… In other words, they have to emotionally distance themselves to an extent to remain professional. Now, in a global pandemic, we have to distance ourselves physically from each other…..maybe also to respond rather than to react to our way of life.

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