Unlike many, I have loved this COVID-19 quarantine.
I have loved working from home. No more hauling the body along transportation routes to sit at a desk to do what I am doing without having to make all that outlay of energy and inconvenience.
I have loved the increased attention to domestic life that the Marvelous María Beatriz and I have shared, from the breadmaking to our selected Netflix choices to reading in bed side-by-side.
I have loved the physical distancing in the streets and parks, the supermarkets and laundromats, on my running routes.
I have loved using the alternate technologies to connect with others – I've connected far more than I would have if I had had to, in pre-COVID fashion, negotiate a time and place and physically transport myself there.
I see this quarantine giving us the gift of what hibernation gives: a reprieve, a breather, a slower pace, a pressure reduction, a chance for repair, the balm of quiet and a release from the taskmaster of a schedule.
Of course this state of things appeals to me, the man who at the age of 15 thought that a vocation with the Trappists looked like a rather good deal and who has always felt a monastic pull.
And feeling this does not mean that I'm unaware of the privileges I have that allow me to feel it: my job is secure for the moment, I have the money to pay for my broadband, I don't have to deal with the hospital hellscape in either my work state (New York) or my home state (New Jersey). I am in a protected space for these moments, and the protection feels nurturing and the respite welcome.
I don't know – no one knows – what the post-COVID world will bring to the United States and the rest of the nations, which makes it difficult to organize efforts to hang on to some of the gains that ordinary people have gotten under the duress of the pandemic: slightly more generous unemployment benefits, a greater push towards a health care system not tied to employment, basic cash support that delinks income from employment.
It also makes it difficult to organize against the accrual of more power by our executives to surveille people, restrict liberties, impose medical solutions (such as mandatory vaccinations), and shovel public money into private hands. The present administration, even in the midst of the crisis, has continued enacting the regulatory rollbacks and the dismantling of the bureaucracy along with its crony capitalism that seems to make up the wrecking crew's politics.
I'm hoping—selfishly, I admit—that post-COVID, along with all the burdens that opening up will bring (burdens that feel, at least at the moment, exhausting and deflationary), I can retain some of the quarantine vibe and practices. The delinking from scheduled time counts as a small bulwark against our masters' inevitable efforts to discipline our impulses and place us back into harness. The physical distancing gives us some space to see one another in full sovereign form and relieves us from the exhausting social performing that proximity requires. The comfort of being in one place at one time gives me the chance to get a grip on myself: stop, look, listen, refine, depose, confirm.
I assume I am in the minority in thinking these thoughts, and given all the destruction that has come about because of this pandemic, these thoughts are probably ethically suspect as well, given the relatively protected perch from which I sing them.
But there they are anyway, written on a bright Saturday afternoon in a situation where I have no obligation but to sit comfortably and consider openly whatever comes to sit next to me. I don't have to be anywhere, I don't have to meet anyone, I don't have any life-demons nagging at me or guilts undermining me.
In quarantine, I have felt more myself than I have felt in a long time. I don't really want to give that up.