Daniel Thorson asked his Twitter followers “Did I miss anything?” after living life in a remote cabin in Vermont for a three-month-long silent retreat according to The New York Times — and boy did he miss a lot.
And in late May, Thorson,33, returned to society — overwhelmed, to say the least, with the coronavirus pandemic along with the nationwide protests over police brutality, sparked by George Floyd‘s death.
“I feel like an oddity, I feel like a curiosity. I don’t know what they expect me to say,” he shared with the Times. “This whole thing is a hell of a drug. It really, really, really has an impact on my nervous system.”
Thorson is part of a Buddhist monastic community in Vermont, according to the outlet. He works at the Monastic Academy and hosts the Emerge podcast.
In the past few years, he has been very involved in current events such as organizing the economic inequality protest movement Occupy Wall Street, as well as promoted technology as a way to achieve enlightenment with the Buddhist Geeks movement.
He then announced on Twitter on March 13 how he was launching “off into silent retreat (aka voluntary physical and memetic self-quarantine) for the next 75 days or so,” which was inspired by his Buddhist group’s teacher, Soryu Forall.
Adn while in isolation, Thorson recalled how he was thinking about everything he would be missing out on and if he would be able to process it when he came home.
“There was a collective traumatic emotional experience that I was not a part of,” he said. “To what degree do I have to piece it back together?”
“I was thinking, is it going to be Mad Max out there, like are we the last survivors?” he added. “How is humanity doing?”
And on May 23, he learned the answer to that question when he came out of isolation to go to the grocery store where he unknowingly failed to practice social distancing and was confused by other’s reactions when he did so.
“I would turn a corner in the grocery store, and someone would be there, and they would recoil,” Thorson recalled to the Times. “I haven’t installed the COVID operating system. At first, I was, like, ‘Whoa, what did I do?'”
It was in that moment that Thorson educated himself about what had happened in the past few months from people posting online. He said he was floored how there wasn’t any news focused on the election or Australian wildfires, and at times, he became overwhelmed with the intensity of re-engaging with others.
He then revealed how he restored color on the screen of his phone, which he kept on grayscale during his retreat. He shared with the Times how the color hurt his eyes and was a “super-stimulating thing” because it was nothing like colors in real life.
Thorson said that while he read differing opinions from internet users, he was able to glean one major takeaway from his time in isolation.
“Everybody has extremely strongly held, very different opinions about everything: how dangerous it is, what the response should have been, how it’s going, whether or not we need to isolate, how to treat it if you get it,” he told the Times.
“There is one consensus proposition that, it seems to me, everybody holds. It’s that whatever happened in the last three months is one of the most significant events in modern history,” he concluded.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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