Jean-Paul Sartre, Mr. Hell is Other People himself
So, my dear family, here we are. We’ve found a limit: the number at which you can’t necessarily hold a single conversation together at table. But I’m going to propose a topic anyway: something you’ve learned during these days. I’ve gotten a more profound sense of how, depending on your particular turn of mind or heart at any given moment, other people are either hell or heaven. This time is either burden or gift. Anyone else?
Daughter, 13: At a certain point during summer, days blur together. I’ve reached that point. I’ve had so much free time, and I’ve been able to do a bunch of reading.
Daughter, 18: I’ve learned how enjoyable it is to read a book with other people. I hadn’t ever thought of it as enjoyable, because it sounded stressful, like homework. ‘Oh, you have to have read it by this time so you can both talk about it, and if you fall behind, then they can’t talk to you.’ But I started reading the Keeper of the Lost Cities series with Other Daughter, and then Still Other Daughter started reading it too, because we have the books and we’re all together.
Daughter: 11: For my age, the books should be too long to read, but the author keeps giving you cliffhanger after cliffhanger after cliffhanger, even when you’re in the middle of a chapter. I’ve learned that doing things with your family, without even seeing anybody else, can actually be fun. It’s weird.
Son, 23: I’ve learned how much of our identity we place in our peers, and how faceless I feel without them.
Nephew, 20: I’ve learned that I’ve got a lot of work to do; I can’t just wing everything.
Son, 20: Being stripped of the things I like to do, I’ve been reminded of the things I used to like, and rekindled some of that enjoyment. I’ve been gardening again.
Son, 16: I’ve realized again how much I like fishing. We’ve been going to the jetty in Mission Bay, fishing off the rocks. I really enjoy catching fish.
Brother, 52: I’ve always thought enjoying fishing meant enjoying waiting.
Son, 16: No, there’s already so much waiting in our lives now.
Wife, 49: You learn to be more grateful, and how you can live with less. My homeschool group is pretty resilient, they’re posting all kinds of things online. Museum tours you can take, recipes, Zoom meetings so people can connect and talk about how they’re coping.
Father, 77: I read a meditation that put it in historical context. It’s helpful to be invited to step back and consider the sweep of history. Europe was afflicted by the Black Death for centuries. At one point, one out of three people died. I’ve had the luxury of living in this pocket of history. Humanity has suffered terribly.
Mother, 78: We’re in no man’s land here. I’m curious about people’s spiritual lives, maybe realizing that we depend on God more than we thought we did.