Crate of Curios – ISOLATION special

As our somewhat softening lockdown has been prolonged for yet another week, it seems to be a good occasion for making a special edition of the Crate this time around. The topic – surprise, surprise – is ISOLATION and in order to celebrate this little event, this Crate will contain more treasures than usual. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

  1. Whilst the current isolation is born out of necessity, throughout history there have been (and still are) people who have sought it out voluntarily. Indeed, I’m referring to hermits who in the medieval period were highly honoured for their reclusive lifestyle.

2. Speaking of hermits, the most famous contemporary one must surely be the hermit in Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’.

3. How much trouble can one possibly take to get away from the maddening crowd? For one, someone has erected a solitary dwelling on the remote Elliðaey island in the Icelandic Vestmannaejar archipelago. Who it might have been is hitherto unknown, as the owner of the house has despite various speculations remained a mystery.

4. When Robinson Crusoe and the protagonists of Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island” ended up isolated by accident, French cave explorer Michel Siffre spent extended periods underground in complete solitude in order to find out how living ‘beyond time’ influences the human body.

5. One more thing a propos hermits, at Verena Gorge in Switzerland one could actually be hired to work as one. Considering that one of the tasks required is talking to tourists, the life might prove slightly less solitary than expected.

6. Artists are supposedly another naturally reclusive bunch, or at least people theoretically comfortable with the natural solitude of the profession. In reality the story behind this perception is a bit more complicated.

7. As the previously mentioned Elliðaey island might prove a touch too isolated for most, the Holy Isle just off the coast of Scotland could be a better bet. With a spiritual history dating back to 6th century A.D., it currently houses a Tibetan Buddhist community that welcomes visitors during summer season in non-Covid times.

8. Quarantine as means to contain disease is by no means a new invention – it was used successfully in Sardinia in 1582. Doctor Quinto Tiberio Angelerio, who had experienced a plague outbreak in Sicily a few years earlier, risked lynching by the angry mob due to his orders to lock down the city. Some of the 57 rules from his Ectypa Pestilentis Status Algheriae Sardiniae booklet sound rather familiar.

9. And finally in the Old English words of John Donne…

And that was it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!

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