Let me thank both Tom Hickey and Jerry Fresia for the very useful responses to my open-ended question about the way forward. I shall try to respond to both of them, perhaps later today. Right now, however, I should like to spend a few moments talking about the contrast between my actual life and the large-scale philosophical and political questions about which I so often bloviate on this blog.
What have I actually been doing in the nearly 4 months since the virus compelled the retirement community in which I live to go on virtual lockdown? My wife and I live in a comfortable third floor apartment with our little cat. Our meals are delivered to our door by the dining services here at Carolina Meadows, along with a variety of things that I can order from them online. I also get deliveries to my door from Amazon.com and via Instacart from the local supermarket. I leave my apartment on a typical day twice: first, in the early morning, to take my one hour walk, carrying my mask with me so that I can put it on when I pass another early walker; and then later on in the early afternoon when I go masked downstairs to the lobby to pick up my mail. By my count, I have left Carolina Meadows ten times in the past four months: Four times to take Susie to a doctor when she broke her wrist in a fall during a brief walk outside; once when I went to the dentist; three times when I called in takeout orders at local restaurants, paid over the phone by credit card, and had them put the order in the trunk of my car when I got to the restaurant; once when I went to get some gas at a local gas station, sanitizing my credit card after inserting it into the slot and holding the pump handle with a sanitizing wipe; and once – a daring outing, this – when Susie and I drove to the parking lot of a local restaurant wearing masks, stood 6 feet away from her son and daughter-in-law, also masked, and chatted for half an hour. And that is it.
To be sure, during these four months I have taught five meetings of my UNC Marx course by zoom, made several guest appearances, also by zoom, in a course on the Critique of Pure Reason taught in Laramie, Wyoming, and sought daily, in the immortal words of Emily Dickinson, “to tell my name the livelong day to an admiring bog.”
Inasmuch as my overriding concern is to make absolutely certain that neither Susie nor I contract the virus, I suspect that this will be my life for at least another nine months. That is not an inconsiderable portion of all the days I have left on this earth so I must make of them what I can. The contrast between the constrained circumference of my actual life and the limitless scope of my speculations is, of course, a commonplace for people who make their living as philosophers, but this virus has brought it home to me with especial force.