Loss of shared space: the second pandemic

What happens when much of the human race suddenly loses the safety of sharing physical space? Does this loss go deeper than the pandemic itself? How do we heal from this great social wound?

Most living people have never had to notice how essential the mutual sharing of physical space is—until now.

Worship, school, work, shopping, eating out, going to bars, restaurants, coffeehouses, sporting events, and on, and on. We social animals live and breathe these hours of visceral physical presence with each other. In essential, gut-level ways, we cannot be human without them.

Now what?

In the short term, those of us who are accustomed to communicating online have found venues for virtual gatherings: web conferencing, live video events in social media, etc.

Image of empty coffeehouse through windowOur brains are hardwired so that the mere sight of a face in real time minimally satisfies the need for a sense of presence with each other.

But, our brains are in bodies in the material world. And our bodies need more than that minimal sight on a screen in order to feel—to know in the blood—that we are really in the midst of other people.

When we begin to experience cabin fever and loneliness, when we start to feel more discouraged, disoriented, and cut off than fear of the disease itself can account for, might we be uncovering a deeper spiritual pandemic: the loss of shared space?

How do we transcend this much greater, potentially more fatal loss?

How do we stay connected?

How?


Pandemic coffeehouse,” by Mike Shell. Bold!Bean Coffee Roasters in Riverside, Jackonville, FL (4/16/2020).

8 comments On Loss of shared space: the second pandemic

  • Linda Walling

    Thanks for this. Reading it, I realize that I probably am having an easier time than many because I lost nearly all of my shared space about six years ago. I adjusted to aloneness back then. It is not easy now, and I do miss lunches and other events with friends. I look forward to having more people back in my life. Still, because of the place I’m in spiritually, I don’t feel alone. I feel touched both by the energies of living friends and by the energies of the spiritual realm. That doesn’t mean I will reject being with people when I have the opportunity again. It just means I’ve learned to connect in a different way that is helping me through this.

    • Thanks so much, Linda. I’m glad that ours is a friendship that has lasted online for twenty years now, ever since you welcomed me into USC’s program in Library and Information Science and helped me bring out my “inner reference librarian.”

      Blessings,
      Mike

  • Thank you, Mike. Here’s how I would answer your question, “How do we stay connected?” today: I try to stay connected by practicing waking up, showing up, and turning towards the Light in myself and others, testimony from others of their personal experience of connecting with Greater Power within. A fresh pot of espresso that I make for my wife and me before we get out of bed for the day helps. As the title one of Jack Kornfield’s books reads, “After the Ecstasy, do the laundry”. The ecstasy in this instance is a cup of fresh fair-trade espresso to start the day. Or as Willigis Jäger says, mysticism is to be used in practical things in daily life with others. Dan
    • In Friendship • Met hartelijke groeten • Bien amicalement
    • Mit freundlichen Grüßen • En amistad • In amicizia
    Daniel Clarke Flynn, Belgium and Luxembourg Yearly Meeting Newsletter Editor
    Verviers and Brussels, Belgium

    • Thanks, Friend Daniel. My husband Jim and I do a lot of walking in our neighborhood, and we talk from the sidewalk with friends on their porches. The coffeehouse where we usually spent hours each day still serves takeout orders from their doorway. That lets us chat with the baristas who are also our friends. Jim texts and calls his sister; I do the same with my sister and brother. We also have chats via text with other friends.

      None of this allows hugs, and little of it has the full feeling of being with each other. But it helps.

      Blessings, Mike

  • Wendy Clarissa Geiger

    What would happen – socially, personally, spiritually, bodily – if every house had a front porch? a bucket or two of green and growing things to tend to that are edible – and flowers, too – outside one’s door? Like the Dutch sent tens of thousands of daffodils to NYC residents to plant, in memory and remembrance of 9/ll/01 and the bombings and collapsing buildings, the grieving, the dead and dying – and surviving.

    “Yes!” magazine (“a journal of positive futures”) notes that hand-written letters are gaining in popularity. To answer your last two queries, Michael, I’d welcome phone calls. I’ve noticed I make fewer and receive fewer phone calls these last few weeks.

    When I read e-mail news or go on YouTube to watch favorite YouTubing minimalists and (news for sanity) Roland Martin Unfiltered, I sense a desperation to “return to normal” by a barrage of, “We’re here for you – engage with us – tell us your needs,” etc. Perhaps, the norm of disengaging from work by being home and private – when & where one could choose to engage with world/people outside…now, work for many is at home, school for children and collegians is at home.

    So, where does one retreat “home” to but within ourselves, the spiritual, which, perhaps, is all about healing and health. And, this coronavirus pandemic is forcing us to face: death and silence and being-with-one’s-thoughts. And, those matters terrify some folk. Perhaps, answers may be found by studying hermits, Desert Fathers & Desert Mothers (of olden times and now), the cloistered monks and nuns – all who keep the world in orbit through, especially, prayer, I believe. And, there are those folk imprisoned in solitary confinement.

    Perhaps, we’ll discover happiness – and the world – is found within us. This pandemic IS spiritual in that the coronavirus effects are felt in our physical body…which we make home for Spirit to dwell….as in, “Our body is the temple of the Spirit.” And, perhaps, our confusions and “charting new territory” of our lives and the lives of our homes, this disruption of “business as usual” is part of changing perspective, changing our lives, practices, and beliefs – a collective earthquake of the heart-mind.

    And, phone calls help.

    Wendiferous

    • Friend Wendy,

      Thanks for sharing these words, which speak that to the inward side of this concern about loss of social space:

      So, where does one retreat “home” to but within ourselves, the spiritual, which, perhaps, is all about healing and health. And, this coronavirus pandemic is forcing us to face: death and silence and being-with-one’s-thoughts. And, those matters terrify some folk….

      And, perhaps, our confusions and “charting new territory” of our lives and the lives of our homes, this disruption of “business as usual” is part of changing perspective, changing our lives, practices, and beliefs – a collective earthquake of the heart-mind.

      Blessings, Mike

  • Chester Kirchman DMin

    Thank you, Mike for this essential point of lives sharing physical space, around the earth. It reminds me of two NYC residents living in the same building, but not meeting until serving the US Navy in the Philippines during WWII with my Dad. This new switch in our lives, has provided strange adjustments needed for personal, group, and universal health safety.

    Friend Wendy’s mentioning of front porch and garden is loved by this rural resident with both. Just recognizing the shared physical space becomes clear in having grandchildren day and night after schools closed, with parents delivering and picking them up, but no involvement with a youth organization or local retirement center, creates a new aspect of life for this mind, body, and spirit.

    Being in contact with our children and other members of our families and friends, by phone and online, has been taking place for many years. It is a little different to have a “Card Shower” for Mom’s birthday this year and see yearbook pictures from years ago, online in honor of those, not having graduation, this year, a granddaughter’s brother included.

    Virtual worship and prayers for overcoming the coronavirus do provide strength in life for us. With over 60 years of life on earth, many changes have taken place. Additional changes are not unexpected. More people working with one another will provide, in all faiths, a real future.

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