Year of the Hermit
Late Wednesday night I boarded an empty streetcar under the starry Toronto sky and
met my friend Monika in the lobby of her apartment building. There we stood, two metres apart,
trading each other things we had made that day: me a jar of strawberry jam, and her a pair of
earrings. Time flew as we talked, and an hour later I left with both lifted spirits and what I
realized was a dull ache for being in the presence of friends.
I rarely feel so close to others as I have felt recently, checking in on loved ones and
strangers, watching as we all experience this historical event from which our world may not
emerge recognizable. Closeness through cold digital touch; a familiar face pixelated through the
virtual dance floor on Club Quarantine, love notes in the form of texts that read “How have you
been feeling?”. There is more physical space between us than ever, but technology allows little
to no mental distance. Friends, family, lovers and enemies all reachable instantly through the
touch of a few keys or a couple swipes.
Extreme isolation has pushed us into a space of extreme togetherness.
My roommates have been binging the Simpsons. We just watched an episode where
Marge is wrongfully imprisoned but finds so much peace in confinement away from
responsibility, that she doesn't want to leave. When I'm backed into a corner I don't try and find
my way out, I try to make the corner as comfortable as possible until I can leave. Oftentimes it's
from the corner that we become our most innovative, idealistic, and creative. Had we not been
quarantined, I don't know that I ever would have traded Monika my jam for her earrings.
There is a tiny light flickering in the centre of your chest, and it can speak to you, if you
slow down long enough to listen. There is a lamp within you that can illuminate the coldest and
darkest places, if you tend to the flame. We've been offered a revolutionary chance to tend to
that flame and to hear its call.
The best art is made not from wading in the water, but from swimming out until your feet
just can't touch the bottom anymore. You don't have to dive very deep, either. There is so much
to be gained floating peacefully at the surface.