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Take time to contemplate these extraordinary times

Editorial


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Posters with guidelines on social distancing at a SuperValu store in Dublin as an infectious disease expert has said Ireland will experience a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases before social distancing measures start to make an impact. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Posters with guidelines on social distancing at a SuperValu store in Dublin as an infectious disease expert has said Ireland will experience a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases before social distancing measures start to make an impact. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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Posters with guidelines on social distancing at a SuperValu store in Dublin as an infectious disease expert has said Ireland will experience a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases before social distancing measures start to make an impact. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

'All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone," the 17th century French savant Blaise Pascal tells us.

The notion, even if a little exaggerated, comes into focus as we face into our second full week of the extraordinary measures to combat the coronavirus.

We have almost no sport, no pubs, restaurants, cinemas or theatres. Yet many of us find ourselves with more time to spare.

The situation is reminiscent of the old one-liner from the wag who suddenly found himself out of work: "The time off is brilliant - the money is really bad." But life sometimes has a habit of doing that to us.

So perhaps we should listen to Pascal and look to the therapeutic and practical value of learning to do nothing occasionally. It can prove very good for morale and for creativity in the longer term.

We could modify Pascal's aphorism to read "many of humanity's problems" have origins in an ability to be still and think when we get the chance.

Take, for example, the glorious spring weather which blessed many parts of the country at the weekend. It brought people out in large numbers to walk and take the air. It was remarkable to see that many of the people out and about were rigorous about maintaining a sensible social distance from others.

Sadly, many people were less careful about keeping a 'social distance'. Even at risk of becoming tiresome, we must again stress the need to follow the expert advice.

It is the only hope of reducing the spread of coronavirus and doing any less may be putting more people at risk of catching this virus - and even of some vulnerable people not surviving.

Some of those who have yet to learn and practise the rules on social distance - keeping at least two metres apart - might do well to consider Pascal's venerable advice and sit quietly in a room and think.

When we look at countries such as Italy, where the public health advice was poorly adhered to in the early days of this virus, we see the consequences of all of us not fully co-operating. It is the only real hope of an early and relatively good outcome to our current problems. It can also help avoid even more draconian measures having to be contemplated by the State authorities.

Being still for a time and contemplating the extraordinary experiences we are going through can help put things in perspective. We can evaluate the things which are really important to us: our families, our friends, neighbours and whatever cultural richness is in our lives.

From there we can take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and others. We can learn to shop wisely and only for the things we need. Those of us who did stockpile a little can "use up stock" and shop a little less for a time.

Yes, sitting quietly in a corner alone can bring many benefits. Many of us have far more opportunities to do it more regularly at present and we should do so.

Irish Independent