Sunday, March 15, 2020

In the Time of Virus: Isolation

For thoughts on Ezekiel 37:1-14, click here or here.
For thoughts on John 11:1-45, click here.

It's a strange time. The proof was in worship this morning when worshipers picked up their own orders of service from a stack and left their offerings in the plate by the door on their way out. When the peace of Christ was passed with a wave of a hand. When the Communion table was empty. When worshipers were encouraged to space themselves on the pews with an appropriate distance between them and the next person.

There have been moments where the world has felt very much like an Edward Hopper painting. Hopper, an American realist painter, is known for placing a single figure in a vacant setting. His work seems to isolate people - sometimes in the country, other times in the city. Men, women, even dogs are alone...or alone together. Detachment is available to anyone in a Hopper painting.

One of the things I appreciate about Hopper is that while he places his figures in isolation (sometimes even when there is more than one person in the painting), he does not seem to indicate what these people are feeling, nor does he dictate what the viewer should feel when looking at the paintings.

Hopper's paintings feel remarkably like today's social distancing. We are separated from one another. That much is obvious. But what are we feeling? Anxiety? Loneliness? Peace? Is this a time to think and process who we are and what life should be about?

While some of us may have chosen to give up something as a Lenten discipline, all of us have been virus-required to give up a number of things. We can live these more socially-austere days in many ways. May Sarton wrote, Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self. Will our current virus-mandated isolation be a time of poverty or richness? A time of loneliness or solitude? Perhaps answering that question would be a good use of our imposed isolation. 

Edward Hopper. (Top) Office in a Small City. 1953. NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Bottom) Intermission. 1963. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 

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