Mr. Thorson is not the kind of Buddhist to shy from current events.
After graduating from college, he was an organizer for Occupy Wall Street, camping in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan and engaging with pedestrians. He logged a few years with the Buddhist Geeks movement, promoting the use of online technology for enlightenment seeking. His podcast, Emerge, seeks to explore “the next phase of the human experiment.”
So he was eager, after ending his 75 days of silence, to see what was going on in the world.
“I was thinking, is it going to be Mad Max out there, like are we the last survivors?” he said. “How is humanity doing?”
After leaving the meditation center, the first evidence he saw was a gas station, and people coming in and out wearing shorts, a scene so characteristic of northern Vermont that he was deeply reassured.
“It’s Vermont,” he said. “Somebody’s getting gas.”
But a new set of impressions followed. He ventured into a Shaw’s supermarket, eager for human contact and what he found instead was anxiety. When he passed people, their eyes darted around, as if they were scanning for threats. One thing that seemed to scare them was Mr. Thorson, who hadn’t gotten the hang of social distancing.
“I would turn a corner in the grocery store, and someone would be there, and they would recoil,” he said. “I haven’t installed the Covid operating system. At first, I was, like, whoa, what did I do?”
He had looked forward to plunging back into his online world, a setting he had always found “nourishing.”
But when he reviewed two and a half months of posts from people he admires, he found, to his shock, that they were only talking about one thing. “Everything else is gone,” he said. “There’s nothing about the election! It’s amazing! The Australian wildfires, what happened there? Didn’t Brexit happen?”