It’s impossible to ignore what's happening in the world, but that’s exactly what Daniel Thorson did when he spent 75 days living in a cabin in a remote area of Vermont as part of a silent retreat.
When he finally rejoined society after nearly three months in isolation, he had only one question for his social media followers: “Did I miss anything?"
The 33-year-old host of the “Emerge” podcast told the New York Times that his re-entry was overwhelming: "I feel like an oddity, I feel like a curiosity. I don’t know what they expect me to say," he told the publication. "This whole thing is a hell of a drug. It really, really, really has an impact on my nervous system."
A member of a Buddhist monastic community, Thorson announced he was going “off into silent retreat (aka voluntary physical and memetic self-quarantine) for the next 75 days or so," on March 13.
He told the publication that during his retreat, he often wondered what kind of world he would return to and how he would process.
"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?"
When he walked into a grocery store shortly after leaving isolation, he learned that the world as he knew it prior to his retreat was gone. Unaware that he wasn’t practicing proper social distancing, he got some odd stares.
He recalled: "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?'"
After getting hit by the full extent of reality in one wave, he explained his biggest takeaway: "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," he added.