How would you explain coronavirus to a younger version of yourself, beamed in from December 2019? How would you explain that, in just a few months, a novel virus has torn across the planet, killing more than 400,000 people and confining a third of the world’s population to their homes? A virus that has incapacitated senior members of the UK government, including the prime minister? And would they even believe you?
It sounds like the sort of light-hearted hypothetical you might be asked at a (virtual) dinner party, but for Daniel Thorson it is not so ridiculous. The 33-year-old lives and works at a Buddhist monastic academy in Vermont, in the northeastern United States, and recently spent two-and-a-half months in a silent retreat, denied any news from the outside world. Upon coming out on 23rd May, he logged in to Twitter and asked his followers: “Did I miss anything?”.My Zen reply; "You didn't miss anything."
Thorson, who now spends less time on his smartphone and tries to avoid binging on rolling news, is glad he missed what he calls the “anxiety hype cycle” that most of his friends went through in late March, when the world seemed to be falling apart. That said, he is left with one surprising regret. “There is a part of me that wishes I could have been there to watch it, because I've been studying this possibility for years and to have missed it - I don't want to say I feel sad, but it's interesting, I would have liked to learn and see it. But on the whole, what I was doing was so much more valuable than that.
“I’m still catching up.”