Living Pleasantly in Times of Coronavirus

The World Health Organization has officially declared coronavirus a global pandemic, and new routines are slowly creeping into workplaces and homes. Now one has to use disinfectant wipes when one presses the button in the elevator, or uses a fax machine or copier.

Coronavirus mortality rate is currently 3%. If today’s world population is estimated at 7,577,130,400 people, then the highest possible amount of deaths by coronavirus is 227,313,912. That’s almost 70 % of the US population. Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that the coronavirus was likely to infect about two-thirds of the German population, which is made up of 81.41 million people. Two thirds of that is 53,730,600, and a 3% mortality rate means that 1,611,918 Germans would die. This is a serious plague, even with its low mortality rate.

Plagues that kill a large proportion of the population happen every few generations, and became the stuff of myth and legend in many cultures. While out of the present health crisis, many religious movements will act out their end-time fantasies and some will engage in eschatological activism, actively celebrating and pursuing their demented ideas about how the world should end, those of us who do not suffer from end-time fever will seek more prudent things to do with our time.

Pleasure ethics proponents like Aristippus teach that we should be adaptable and flexible, seeing in every situation opportunities for pleasure. Thinking like an Epicurean about the changes in lifestyle posed by coronavirus should lead us to build our pleasure regimen around the restrictions imposed by a pandemic.

We have reason to be germophobic these days. One of the easiest lifestyle changes we can implement is to be mindful of our personal space. Coronavirus transmits within about six feet (according to the CDC), so this is the recommended distance with strangers, say, on the train–if possible.

We should wash our hands frequently with anti-bacterial soap, and have anti-bacterial wipes handy. We should avoid touching our faces frequently, and avoid touching surfaces that are touched by many others, and we should use disinfected wipes to handle door knobs, elevator buttons, etc.

We do not have to wear facemasks unless we are caregivers to patients. Facemasks are in short supply, and should be reserved for those in close contact with patients. However, while riding the train, I’ve noticed that some people are using their scarves as both fashion and facemask.

The Pleasures of Nesting

Since in these times we must avoid crowds (no hospitals, no cruisers, no concerts, no sports events if at all possible), we should focus on the pleasures of privacy and make of our home a refuge of tranquil pleasure. These are times to make the most of the intimate pleasures. We may read or write in our journal, or engage in other private pleasures and hobbies that we at other times find easy excuses to dismiss for being too idle.

We may watch movies at home (or binge-watch a series or our favorite shows) alone or–better yet– with loved ones or friends, and cook and eat at home.

The Pleasures of Hygiene

The Goddess Hygeia is the personification of health, and her name shares semantic roots with the word hygiene. There has always existed an association between dis-ease and impurity, and between health and purity or cleanliness. Since purity/cleanliness has acquired increased importance now that we’re experiencing a global pandemic, we should take some time to focus on activities related to hygiene.

We should daily keep all the surfaces of our homes and work environments clean with disinfectants. I like to play lively music at home when I’m mopping and cleaning so that the activity is much more enjoyable. I also enjoy my bubble baths, but we can built our lifestyles around other hygiene rituals.

The Pleasures of Ataraxia

The most important and steady pleasure we should cultivate is keeping a pleasant disposition–of which we are in control–in spite of what we see in the news. We do not need to avoid the news, although it’s frequently useful to diminish our consumption of  news media for the sake of peace of mind.

It is imprudent to panic. Death is nothing to us, so we should be concerned with the quality of our lives and the lives of those we love, for as long as we live.

Further Reading:

Learning from Lucretius in Times of Coronavirus

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014) and 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and founder of societyofepicurus.com. He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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