“Face, hands, space” are the three slogans that the British government used in the virus prevention campaign: the face is to be carefully covered with the mask, the hands are to be sanitized constantly and the distance is to be maintained between neighbors. Face, hands and space have become the new boundaries of our lives, the trenches where we defend ourselves from the advance of the invisible enemy. I wonder, however, whether face, hands and space can indicate, at the same time, a possible healing strategy, the path to live our time in peace and serenity.
The masks we all wear does not only protect us from the infection of the virus but, at the same time, hide our faces behind a sad anonymity. The mask makes us safer but also more inexpressive and insensitive. This flap of cloth certainly prevents the transmission of the droplets but, at the same time, it deprives us of the emotions that emerge from the face of the others and of that inner reality which the gaze interprets. The face can turn into a therapeutic indication, a strategy to heal our senses exacerbated by the relational effects of the virus. Learning to see the face of others, their worries and joys, their burdens and troubles, perhaps this can represent a first step to recover a sense of normality that the pandemic has made us lose.
Each of us lives on contact, hugs and physical touch, all of which give us back the meaning and value of our individual being, something we’ve all been missing! The hands, accustomed in the past to continuous exchanges of greetings, remain silent and idle, forced to an unnatural and tiring distance. Touching and being touched is what testifies to our radical openness to the world, our shared being with others. Hands also offer us a possible way for rebirth; we can relearn to touch each other and to recognize the original bond that makes us human. The hands can re-educate our sensitivity to the presence of others, to that fraternity that makes us attuned to the joys and hopes, sorrows and anxieties of people.
And then the space, the distance of at least one meter, that, as a ravine divides us from the body of the other. Covid has forced us to an unusual distance and to an absence that we had never experienced before. We no longer feel the scent or the warmth of others; we are immunized, protected and defended. The meeting is sterilized by any possible emotional and existential infection. It is perhaps the time to reorientate ourselves to relationships, not only physical but also existential. It is time to relearn the “art of companionship” and value the existence of the others, even if it is silent and humble. This is the appeal that social distancing represents for our days: building bridges beyond the ravine, connections beyond isolation.
We do not yet know who we will become tomorrow, but today we can choose to undertake a journey for an inner healing. This will lead us to become men and women capable of deeper connection, altruistic contact and fraternal affinity.