Daniel Thorson, 33, from Vermont, entered the Buddhist Monastic Academy, of which he is a member, in mid-March.
On 23 May, after two and a half months, Thorson returned from his isolation and tweeted: “I'm back from 75 days in silence. Did I miss anything?”
As he was later informed, Thorson missed a lot during his time in a cabin in a remote part of northwestern Vermont, including the spread of coronavirus, the 6.29m confirmed cases worldwide and the more than 100,000 deaths that occurred in the US as a result.
According to Thorson, his first glimpse of the changes he had missed occurred when he visited the supermarket unaware of social distancing guidelines.
“People at the grocery store seem more anxious than I remember,” he tweeted on 25 May.
“I would turn a corner in the grocery store, and someone would be there, and they would recoil,” he told The New York Times. “I haven’t installed the Covid operating system. At first, I was, like ‘Whoa, what did I do?’”
Upon his return online, Thorson learned just how big of a topic the coronavirus pandemic had become, and how it seemed to overshadow or encompass almost anything else, both in the news and in day-to-day conversations.
“Everything else is gone,” he said. “There’s nothing about the election! It’s amazing! The Australian wildfires, what happened there? Didn’t Brexit happen?
“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.
“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.”
Two days after Thorson returned, Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white former police officer in Minnesota, sparking protests against police brutality and racism around the world.
“While I was on retreat, there was a collective traumatic emotional experience that I was not a part of,” he said on his second day back. “To what degree do I have to piece it back together?”
Thorson also found that people were curious about his experience as well.
On Twitter, replies to his inquiry ranged from joking responses that he hadn’t missed much to comments such as: “I feel like we should be asking you that question?”
“I feel like an oddity, I feel like a curiosity,” he explained to The Times. “I don’t know what they expect me to say.”
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