March 12, 2020
Maybe it's not a bad thing about keeping ourselves at home and apart from other people, owing to the China Virus — at least for a time.
The NBA (pro-basketball) is the latest to cancel its entire season. Trump suspends travel from Europe.
Schools, stadiums, streets, theaters, businesses, subways, dances, parties, all that and more, cancelled, empty, or near empty, in keeping to common sense and the warnings from officials, based on the advice of doctors. Positively Sci Fi. Did Richard Matheson ("I am Legend") write this?
Stephen King? Ray Bradbury? This is zombie world — don't touch, don't smell, don't feel, don't look, don't interact with strangers, friends, and even members of your own family.
Walk alone. Drive alone. Wash hands. Stay off the subways. Keep away from crowds.
So perhaps, since this means everybody, everywhere, there won't be the usual Hamas riots along the Gaza border, thanks to the moratorium, and the gangs in Brooklyn who terrify Jews and even their own people will keep off the streets, since they are brave only when part of a mob, but never when they walk alone.
The hooligans who trample the streets from Berkeley, to Paris, to Brussels, to Teheran — they may also heed the ban for their own safety.
Those may be some of the benefits when an entire world goes on lock-up.
Among the champions of voluntary solitude, two come immediately to mind, J.D. Salinger and Michel de Montaigne. They did okay keeping themselves in isolation. Salinger hated to around people. Just getting touched, even recognized, by someone, drove him bonkers. All he did, in his room, was write a great novel. All by himself. There was no audience cheering him or jeering him from stands.
Sometimes we're at our best going solo, and some people master it as an art. We tend to call them eccentric. But maybe they know something we don't know.
Canadian pianist Glenn Gould was so peculiar that he wouldn't let anyone touch his special chair.
He refused human contact, as much as possible, and just to be sure, he wore gloves, and he played magnificently.
Broke his concentration to be around people, and finally only recorded from inside the studio.
Maybe, once in a while, it's okay to sit back and ride along with nothing more than your imagination, or read a book, instead of turning to Twitter for the cacophony.
Alone, in silence, you could find yourself the repository of all the world. You are the exemplar of everyone else. The Talmud thinks so.
So did Montaigne (1533-1592) who wrote an essay "On Solitude," its many rewards, and he was in fact the father of the Essay. So they say. I say, Rashi.
Or even King David, much earlier, for the poetic Essay, the Psalms, — never to be matched, or even approached.
David's inspiration and ecstasy came when he was young and alone in the fields as a shepherd.
Those of us who need our daily bread of Torah, but mustn't get out now, the computer came along just in time.
With this outbreak, is this heaven's way of telling us to turn down the volume? It has gotten awfully loud.
Maybe we're being told that it is time to take a pause, retreat, to think what we are doing, where we are going, and what's the rush?
As the Rebbe and my father used to say — nothing is happenstance — nothing is random. There's a reason for everything.
G-d bless us all.