by: Fr. Nicholas A. Marziani, Jr., D.Min ~ Pastor Emeritus, St. James Church

It doesn’t get crazier than this. I’m still amazed at the juxtaposition of two major developments in our world lately that would have us attempt to move in opposite directions simultaneously.

First, of course, recommendations abound concerning the coronavirus plague stalking the planet and the best way to put the brakes on its relentless march to infect anyone in its trajectory. Primary among those recommendations is a word that few of us heard of until very recently, “social distancing.” Almost like an echo of the Levitical prescription for lepers to sequester themselves and shout out “unclean, unclean!” if someone from the general population came up too close, we are being urged in no uncertain terms to “keep our distance” from one another during this crisis. A minimum of six feet separation from others of our species is the current public health prescription lest we potentially become hosts or carriers of this nasty virus.

Sounds quite sensible, and I have zero reason to doubt the wisdom of the folks whose business it is to keep the population as safe as possible.

And here comes the supreme irony of it all. Not just one, but TWO respected publications, AARP – the Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal recently ran pieces that, of all things, call for increasing the socialization among people in view of growing evidence that plain, old-fashioned loneliness is literally inducing a slow death in millions of especially older Americans (although other studies have highlighted the fact that young people in their early twenties are among the loneliest people in our society)!

The documented and widely conducted research that clearly demonstrates that social isolation is a real killer would seem impeccable. Space does not provide me opportunity to go into detail on this point. My basic message here is that here we are in a classic “danged if you, danged if you don’t” scenario.

What to do in such a situation? Well, it’s clear we need to aggressively seek to neutralize deadly contagion. It’s also clear that sometimes the cure is as bad as the disease. Insofar as we are a society that overall doesn’t particularly prize spiritual wisdom, or even believe that there’s a “Higher Power” that could provide it, we may have painted ourselves into a corner. Sort of reminds me of one of those old Three Stooges episodes when Curly tried to play plumber to fix a leak and literally “piped” himself into a self-made metallic cage.

Well, that was funny and we all laughed, but our current fix is no laughing matter. Maybe the way out of our current iron prison is to be more on our knees!