COVID has changed our world. In most regards, it has caused great harm, including economic devastation and death not seen since the Second World War.
But perhaps surprisingly, it has also provided the valuable opportunity to examine many old assumptions and practices governing the way we work, travel and relate to others.
And to ourselves.
Not for nothing has much attention turned to the dangerous and still weakly documented health effects of social distancing, of isolation and of loneliness. Ahead of the curve in this area, Great Britain appointed a federal Minister for Loneliness after their National Health Service documented and quantified the very devastating cost of loneliness for personal health, and for the national budget.
In many quarters, including our Atlantic provinces' daily papers, we are now seeing a renewed interest in the mental health effects of social isolation. Progressive public health researchers have known for many decades that the chief determinants of a person's health and of the well-being of the general population have relatively little to do with the chemical concoctions heavily promoted by Big Pharma.
In fact, our health normally depends very greatly on the quality and quantity of our human connections, on the safety and satisfaction of our work, on the quality of our food and the quantity of our exercise, recreation and hobby activities. (In emergencies like the current COVID epidemic, nothing replaces an effective vaccine!)
With the approaching Christmas season now threatening to be something of a Scrooge's delight on the socializing front, attention has rightly been turning to alternative ways to make merry. And here a little big-picture history might assist us.
It has taken about 500 years for many northern countries in the West to work through the general prohibition on pleasure that was a central aspect of the well-intentioned Reformers of the 16th century in Switzerland, Germany, Scotland and elsewhere.
At that time, live theatre, visual arts, recreational games, popular music and dancing were widely prohibited.
Thus, anthropologists and sociologists have never been tempted to label the strongest preserves of Reformer Puritanism, as hotspots of hedonism, pleasure or party fun. One of my Harvard professors wryly defined Puritanism as the lingering suspicion that somebody, somewhere might be having a good time! Indeed, we have to go all the way back to Englishman Thomas More in the 15th century to rediscover the kind of wholesome enjoyment of sensual pleasure that was for a very long time strongly discouraged as a result of the changes brought by the Reformation to Europe.
Now, in the bleak circumstances of our own day, it is truly time to rediscover the joy of pleasure, and the importance of pleasure for our mental and physical health.
With COVID threatening to be the Grinch that stole Christmas, we need to fight back against the gloom of these short, dark days and the widespread distress and death from the virus by finding new joys and renewing old ones.
Many will find themselves separated from loved ones this Christmas against their will. Here, the new means of communication such as FaceTime, Facebook, Zoom and Skype may help, if available. But perhaps nothing beats the low-tech telephone call. The sound of the human voice can work wonders. And what better time to reach out to family, friends, lost contacts, or schoolmates?
Now, everyone has an excuse, if needed: I was thinking about you and just wanted to check how youre doing with all this COVID stuff that's happening. These phone calls are especially important for our seniors living in painful isolation in long-term care homes.
Mother Nature has wired our bodies with many sensors to detect pain and pleasure. And at a very basic level, the best antidote to distress and pain is pleasure. They need not be expensive or large pleasures, but hopefully they can be safe pleasures.
There will be very few trips to Florida this year or cruises south, even for those able to afford them. But almost everyone has a favourite sweet treat! Even my most reserved friends will confess to liking some form of chocolate. (The medicinal effects of chocolate cry out for more research!)
New artistic pursuits, new languages, or new musical instruments are great candidates for joy and pleasure, even in isolation or quarantine. A good book, a good movie, a good online connection also have great therapeutic values.
For many Atlantic Canadians on the COVID frontlines in hospitals, schools and grocery stores, physical rest itself may be one of the seasons sweetest pleasures. For those with a traditional religious faith, few things have a more powerful beneficial effect than prayer. When we feel joy, our cells smile, and our endocrine system shouts ALLELUIA!
And for those looking for other fulfilling pleasures, they may find the advice for safe sex given by the New York City Department of Public Health at the height of the epidemic of interest, amusement or assistance. (The guidance offered New Yorkers by their Department of Public Health for safe sex during the worst ravages of the epidemic may be found here.)
Wherever the search for pleasure takes us, if safely done, it can be an adventure in rediscovering the natural ability of our bodies to refresh our spirits, bring a smile and create wellness and joy. Enjoying safe pleasure is a wisdom of the body that for too long has been repressed in the harried lifestyle of an urbanized, industrialized and the still somewhat Puritan culture of the West.
This year, perhaps more than at any time since the war years or the Great Depression of the 1930s, we need and deserve, a fulsome and wholesome immersion in healthy pleasures, large and small!
May the old carol ring true in your hearts this Christmas: God rest ye Merry Gentlemen ( and Gentlewomen!)
Heres wishing you and yours a safe and joy-filled holiday season!
Brian Joseph, a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University and Harvard, pursues safe pleasures in North Sydney where he continues his lifelong sociological studies of Western culture.
- Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today - The New York Times - April 20th, 2021
- 173 infected in new coronavirus outbreaks at 41 schools, says Michigans April 19 school outbreak report - mlive.com - April 20th, 2021
- Coronavirus in Michigan: Heres what to know April 18, 2021 - WDIV ClickOnDetroit - April 20th, 2021
- Heres what it would take to cut Ohios coronavirus cases in half - cleveland.com - April 20th, 2021
- U.K. Coronavirus Strain Does Not Lead To More Severe Illness And Death, Study Finds - NPR - April 20th, 2021
- Coronavirus cases trend down in Ohio after weeks of increases; hospitalizations still up - latest trends and - cleveland.com - April 20th, 2021
- Florida mother and nurse finally leaves hospital after 111 days fighting coronavirus - FOX 35 Orlando - April 20th, 2021
- What the Coronavirus Variants Mean for Testing - The New York Times - April 20th, 2021
- How the Coronavirus Variants Are Spreading in New York City - The New York Times - April 20th, 2021
- Cleveland Indians trending toward 85% vaccination rate for coronavirus - cleveland.com - April 20th, 2021
- Covenant Health closes all drive-thru coronavirus testing sites - KLBK | KAMC | EverythingLubbock.com - April 20th, 2021
- Four Astros on COVID-19 list tentatively set to rejoin team - Houston Chronicle - April 20th, 2021
- No, Having Raw Onions And Salt Cannot Cure Coronavirus - The Quint - April 20th, 2021
- COVID-19 in South Dakota: 133 total new cases; Death toll remains at 1,953; Active cases at 2,153 - KELOLAND.com - April 20th, 2021
- Covid updates: U.S. cases and hospitalizations drop; Mexico close to approving Russian vaccine - CNBC - February 4th, 2021
- One Emergency After Another: Wisconsin Governor And Legislators Battle Over COVID-19 - NPR - February 4th, 2021
- Dr. Fauci On Vaccinations And Biden's 'Refreshing' Approach To COVID-19 - NPR - February 4th, 2021
- EmitBio Demonstrates New Treatment Is Effective Against Multiple Types Of Coronavirus - The Mountaineer - February 4th, 2021
- A Year Into The Pandemic, What's Driving Varied Coronavirus Rates Across Wisconsin? - WisContext - February 4th, 2021
- Disinfecting a Car to Protect Against Germs, Coronavirus - Healthline - February 4th, 2021
- Why same 84 Ohio counties are on coronavirus red alert again this week, though orange counties arent at bott - cleveland.com - February 4th, 2021
- The shift from nought to hedonism overnight was too much for this lockdown zombie - Evening Standard - December 17th, 2020
- An impressive, multi-layered combination of players and instruments - Morning Star Online - December 17th, 2020
- Londoners party on eve of tougher COVID restrictions - Reuters UK - December 17th, 2020
- Judge to decide whether her rulings deprived Ross Harris of fair trial - Atlanta Journal Constitution - December 17th, 2020
- Review: 'Ferdinand, the Man With the Kind Heart,' by Irmgard Keun - Minneapolis Star Tribune - December 17th, 2020
- Government take heed: Some goals are best achieved indirectly - The Daily Telegram - December 17th, 2020
- Blind Evolution Explained Everything - Discovery Institute - December 17th, 2020
- Melii And Sainvil Bubble With Tension In New Visual For HBK - RESPECT. - December 17th, 2020
- The Weekend Edit: Party Like It's 2021! - The Handbook - December 17th, 2020
- How to be happy | | bryantimes.com - The Bryan Times - December 17th, 2020
- Chadwick Bosemans final performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is one of searching intensity - iNews - December 17th, 2020
- Leeds pubs and bars react as Tier 3 rule remains meaning they can't open to customers at Christmas - Yorkshire Evening Post - December 17th, 2020
- My Favorite Fiction of 2020 - The New Yorker - December 17th, 2020
- The Hanukkah Menorah to Light Up the World - jewishboston.com - December 17th, 2020
- The joy of a canceled Christmas - The Spectator US - December 17th, 2020
- A top 10 list of the best banned literary filth - The Irish Times - December 17th, 2020
- 'The Stand' Early Buzz: The CBS All Access Stephen King Adaptation Gets Mixed Results - /FILM - December 17th, 2020
- FWD Transmissions: SHE Spells Doom - Drums of Affliction - Electronic Beats - December 5th, 2020
- 'Star Trek: Discovery' offers a better take with season 3, episode 8 'The Sanctuary' - Space.com - December 5th, 2020
- Can hypnotherapy root away your ailments? - Times of India - December 5th, 2020
- The Mandalorian: What Did Baby Yoda See In The Force? - Screen Rant - December 5th, 2020
- MR.BLACK brings the heat with reggae rave anthem 'Feel The Fire' on Showtek's label - We Rave You - December 5th, 2020
- Study: Ancient California Teens Took Hallucinogens as Part of Sacred Ritual Free Press of Jacksonville - Jacksonville Free Press - December 5th, 2020
- The 15 Best Techno Tracks of November 2020 - Magnetic Magazine - December 5th, 2020
- 9 fugas and Marygoround are the winning European titles at the Gijn Film Festival - Cineuropa - December 5th, 2020
- Harry, Meghan and memories of Princess Diana: The dark side of royalty - The Financial Express - December 5th, 2020
- W&W iconic festival anthem 'Lift Off!' turns 8 years old - We Rave You - December 5th, 2020
- Timmy Trumpet: I love people and that's what I miss the most about touring - We Rave You - December 5th, 2020
- What Are the Differences Between Trance and Techno? - One EDM - December 5th, 2020
- Suszynski: Knowing through imagination | VailDaily.com - Vail Daily News - December 5th, 2020
- Notice of prolongation of redemption date and partial redemption of convertible bonds PKG5 - GlobeNewswire - December 5th, 2020
- Trump Embraces Fringe Theories on Protests and the Coronavirus - The New York Times - August 31st, 2020
- Governor Cuomo Announces New Record High Number of COVID-19 Tests Reported to New York State - ny.gov - August 31st, 2020
- How Italy's 'father of the swabs' fought the coronavirus - Science Magazine - August 31st, 2020
- Alaska coronavirus Q&A: How are people here getting COVID-19? And what's the deal with testing numbers? - Anchorage Daily News - August 31st, 2020
- Coronavirus news of the week (VIDEO) - Live Science - August 31st, 2020
- A case of coronavirus reinfection shows the complexities of the pandemic - The Verge - August 31st, 2020
- New drool-based tests are replacing the dreaded coronavirus nasal swab - Science Magazine - August 31st, 2020
- How Minnesota's biggest beef producer is weathering the coronavirus - Minneapolis Star Tribune - August 31st, 2020
- When the Threat of Eviction Meets the Threat of Coronavirus - The New York Times - August 31st, 2020
- Coronavirus worries force election officials to get creative - Wink News - August 31st, 2020
- This Trawlers Haul: Evidence That Antibodies Block the Coronavirus - The New York Times - August 20th, 2020
- NIH imposes 'outrageous' conditions on resuming coronavirus grant targeted by Trump - Science Magazine - August 20th, 2020
- Coronavirus updates: University of North Carolina temporarily suspends fall sports; Pope warns against the rich getting vaccine first - USA TODAY - August 20th, 2020
- Faster test results and 'robust' immune response may offer hope of curbing the pandemic, experts say - CNN - August 20th, 2020
- Why Pooled Testing for the Coronavirus Isn't Working - The New York Times - August 20th, 2020
- Coronavirus outbreak linked to wedding reception in Maine - CNN - August 20th, 2020
- COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Justice hosts Dr. Deborah Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, to discuss West Virginia virus response - West... - August 20th, 2020
- COVID-19 Daily Update 8-19-2020 - West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources - August 20th, 2020
- August 19 evening update: The latest on the coronavirus and Maine - Bangor Daily News - August 20th, 2020
- Masks blunt the spread of coronavirus but not all are created equal - The Guardian - August 20th, 2020
- Opinion: There is a safe, healthy path forward from the ravages of the coronavirus - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - August 20th, 2020
- Few signs of collective mourning as the US tops 170,000 coronavirus deaths - CNN - August 20th, 2020
- Coronavirus is spreading in schools, but the federal government isn't keeping count - NBC News - August 20th, 2020
- Researchers hope this old-fashioned treatment will work for coronavirus - CNN - August 20th, 2020
- Older Children and the Coronavirus: A New Wrinkle in the Debate - The New York Times - August 20th, 2020
- Here's what's behind all those backlogged coronavirus cases across Texas - The Dallas Morning News - August 20th, 2020
- Potential Rising Income Streams and Equity Retirement Solutions - Dividend.com - August 10th, 2020
- Millions of America's working poor may lose out on key anti-poverty tax credit because of the pandemic - Chicago Reporter - August 10th, 2020