“I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.”
© Chris Courtney Photography
I often wonder what it means to walk through life alone. As I watch the clouds move across the barren Icelandic landscape, they shift and move so fast that to glance away, even for a moment, an entire formation changes and a complete weather system shifts. Did anyone see it other than me? If no one else sees it, does it matter? If no one sees me, hears me, knows me, do I matter? Should I care if I matter – or not - to anyone else, if I matter to myself? What it costs me to matter to others has never been worth the price. Why is that so problematic, even to me? Why is my mere existence, blissful and alone, such a threat?
If I asked you to describe me, could you?
If I asked you to describe yourself?
Who do you know better me or you?
I am an isolationist, and I am not lonely. I prefer the time and space of my own thoughts. My time might be finite, but my space is limitless – except when other people are in it. No one wants to experience what I want to experience. No one wants to come with me, and I am more than happy to go alone rather than not to go at all or to wait for someone who has the balls to come along.
To go alone, when and where I want means more to me than anyone. To think the thoughts I want to think, to see the barren landscapes I want to see, to exist in the darkness of winter, to visit the wonders of nature, to visit the graves of bodies I don’t know. It matters to me, and I don’t need it to matter to anyone else.
I often wonder if experience needs to be shared? Or have I stumbled upon the greatest sham of mankind? In fact, experience cannot be shared – because only I occupy the space I inhabit, and no one and nothing but me can experience this perspective and this culmination. Others might dare to stand next to me, but they cannot know what I know or feel what I experience anymore than I can know them or their experience.
We are born alone. For all the obstetricians and mid-wives, there is no one in the womb with the child as it emerges. Those waiting for the child to be born are with the mother, not the new born. And when we die, usually, no one comes with us. These are solitary acts that sometimes takes place in front of onlookers, who cannot in any way experience what is happening to the one to which it is happening. Empathy, the great watch word of humanism, only takes the watchers so far. But we spend the lion’s share of our lives proving that we are not as utterly alone as we are – as if being alone were the worst fate known to man. But I’m with Sartre, hell is other people.
In my opinion, we are over socialised. We spend a huge amount of time teaching children how to behave in public, how to grow up in social circles, how to deal with peers and peer pressure, how to deal with the opposite sex and the same sex, how to date, and marry, and have children of their own but do we ever teach our children how to be at peace with themselves? How to spend time completely and contentedly alone? Does any parent ever make it mandatory for a child to come to terms with themselves? If that happens, when it happens, it usually comes out of serious loss.
Facing ourselves, wrestling with conscience and lusts, with hungers and identity, with our id and ego with our consciousness that can observe with detachment from within, is a profound and liberating experience. Facing ourselves evokes our truest nature, unencumbered and not obliged to conform to any outside influences for pleasure or experience, we hone our own tastes from our own reasoning, in our own time. We aren’t told what pleasure is or what pleasure to seek, we hone it from within.
If I asked you to describe me, could you? If I asked you to describe yourself? Who do you know better me or you?
Shouldn’t we come to terms with ourselves, know ourselves, enjoy our own company in equal measure to our expanding awareness of others? This isn’t selfish, it’s self knowledge, and with self knowledge so many social and sexual issues shift. Pack mentality, which has become dangerous at a truly serious level recently, would meet its natural foe – independent consciousness. We only hear the term ‘lone wolf,’ when it has gone rogue at the peril of society, but lone wolves are far more likely to lead packs away from cruelty and viciousness, and into uncharted areas of wonder and experience. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed were all lone wolves no matter if you believe in them historically or mythically.
Yes, loners are a threat to social normatives, but only to the extent that we tend to show the way without coercion or pressure. I don’t need or want anyone with me but leading by example might give others inspiration to set out on their own every once in a while.
But in moments of raw honesty, I have to wonder if the reason my way of life isn’t embraced more is that when others want to be around me, want me to bend to their will, I choose to honour my desires, not to bend, to be alone at peace rather than in company at odds.
The clouds above the frozen Icelandic tundra are not affected when I look away. Their existence is not subject to my gaze. They exist objectively, constantly changing, forming, evaporating, and reforming irrespective of me, and I of them. Just as I am constantly changing, forming, evaporating and reforming irrespective of you, and you of me. Maybe admiring each other from a far, without impeding each other’s independent trajectory is the best way to be. Alone simultaneously on this earth.