A Vermont man is being called a “modern-day Rip Van Winkle” after spending 75 days in a silent retreat — separated from all news about the ongoing state of the world.
Daniel Thorson, a podcast host and staff member at the Monastic Academy training center, entered full isolation in mid-March, according to the New York Times. In the Buddhist retreat, he had no communication with the outside world, let alone any knowledge of the growing global pandemic.
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Thorson ended his isolation on May 23, logging back onto Twitter with a message that quickly went viral.
“I’m back from 75 days in silence. Did I miss anything?” he wrote.
I'm back from 75 days in silence. Did I miss anything?
— Daniel Thorson (@dthorson) May 23, 2020
In an interview with the New York Times, Thorson described the hours after his tweet, during which he learned of countless stories surrounding the health crisis — including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hospitalization and the surge of cases inside U.S. meatpacking plants.
There were also some positives though. Thorson was able to reconnect with his family members and reengage with the outside world. He even learned that his cousin had met a new romantic partner via a social-distance dating site.
There were some adjustments along the way. Just like with the fictional Rip Van Winkle, who fell asleep for 20 years and missed the entire American Revolution, Thorson had some trouble catching up with his new reality.
“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?’”
That said, the 33-year-old was expecting some changes. He told the New York Times that he had definitely considered the possibility of something drastic happening while he was away.
“I was thinking, is it going to be ‘Mad Max’ out there, like are we the last survivors?” he said. “How is humanity doing?”
Now Thorson has had a few weeks to adjust, and in the meantime he’s become a point of fascination for social media users and mainstream news outlets alike. In addition to his profile in the Times, he’s gone viral on TikTok China and spoken with Inside Edition about his experience.
Speaking to Inside Edition, Thorson called his first encounter with face masks as a very “sci-fi movie experience.”
People at the grocery store seem more anxious than I remember.
— Daniel Thorson (@dthorson) May 25, 2020
However, he also feels the distance has given him some perspective. Thorson told the New York Times that he’s been struggling to tackle all of the opinions and analyses since he exited his retreat — however, he’s found at least one thing to be true.
“There is one consensus proposition that, it seems to me, everybody holds,” he said. “It’s that whatever happened in the last three months is one of the most significant events in modern history.”
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