As we roll into another month of “shelter in” and social-distancing, I am beginning to feel like the crew and passengers on the S.S. Minnow. I know I’m dating myself by referring to the ’60s TV hit show, Gilligan’s Island. However, I believe the show is still in syndication.
Allow me to briefly summarize the premise of the show: A group of five very different people charter a boat from Honolulu for a three-hour junket with two crew members — the Capitan and his not-too-bright sidekick/flunky, Gilligan. Unfortunately, the tour is thrown off-course by a sudden typhoon, resulting in the fivesome being marooned on an uncharted island. In sitcom time, these poor souls were trapped on the island for three seasons. In fact, they were never rescued because the show was cancelled abruptly to make room for the classic Gunsmoke series.
Enough on the background. The point I want to make is that being at home with your family, soulmate or friends during this pandemic is like being marooned on an uncharted island. You and they really get to know each other at a much deeper level. Suddenly, the little irritating traits and quirky habits that we have compartmentalized and accepted now become grating.
We begin to realize that while we were busy living, the people we live with were busy changing. The epiphany is that we have been living life on autopilot — not only with our family, but also our friends and work associates. This lack of authentic interpersonal interaction is not confined to our homes. We’ve developed a social language that passes as genuine interest in how other humans are doing. It is not uncommon to greet a person with a pleasant “Good morning, how are you?” and walk away before the person can answer. Our language is full of empty catchphrases like “How’s it going?” or “Have a nice day!”
We are truly ships passing in the night — aware of the presence of other ships but not aware of who’s on board or its destination. Our social lexicon is designed to avoid authentic interactions. Do we really care about how the other person’s life is going? Heck no. Too many of us know more about reality-show stars than our next-door neighbor. People get a rush out of whatever contrived feud will take center stage this week on Real Wives of … you fill in the blank. Superficiality reigns. Depth and real connection seem to be too risky.
Yet during this period of quarantine, I have both learned some lessons or had some learnings reinforced:
• Family is irreplaceable even when they are not near us or too close to us
• Laughter is a powerful medicine
• Friends are keepers of cherished and shared memories
• Positive thoughts and attitudes boost our immune systems
• Animals are the guardians of nature
• Belief in a Higher Power is a stress reducer and an antidote to fear
Finally, I realized, as Voltaire the 18th century French writer and philosopher said, “If there were no God, it would be necessary to invent him.”