Being Alone

Bird Droppings April 25, 2011
Being alone

Traditionally we as a family have had an Easter egg hunt for the children of the family now for over thirty years. While I have my moments of enjoying community time I am also very much an monastic individual seeking time alone which for me is often the early hours of the day prior to most even considering rising from their night of sleep. I am uninterrupted save for taking our dog out and the occasionally storm knocking out power limiting my writing and reading time. This morning I went back in my collected thoughts and found an old blog I had saved written by a friend. I read a blog first in MySpace many years ago written by a person who is as hard nails as they say but as I read the essay and reviewed numerous photos from New York streets attached to the writing a mention of loneliness came out. I wrote back that being alone and lonely were two different things. Many times I seek to be alone, and all it takes of course is a quick step inside and I am back with my family. But many there are times I seek solitude. I joke about my monasticism and sitting out in the mornings meditating, thinking, wondering and of course pondering about all that go on in the world. Contrary to this for me loneliness is a state of mind, one of our own being. It is so much more than simply being alone since we chose to be alone and loneliness is not always by choice.

“I hear the ticking of the clock – I’m lying here the room’s pitch dark – I wonder where you are tonight – No answer on the telephone – And the night goes by so very slow – Oh I hope that it won’t end though Alone” lyrics from Alone, Heart, Bad Animals album, 1987

I think by nature we are gregarious creatures we need others about us, around us and near us for us in order to be comfortable. I use the term from my sheep herding days of the herding instinct, we need to be in a crowd. It is not for defense as with sheep although maybe that is it when in a crowd we cannot be hurt, there is safety just like the sheep or small fish in a shoal bunching up some will die and be eaten but most will survive. In Canada, a musk oxen herd when attacked by wolves even though wolves can only take young and weak animals the stronger oxen circle the weaker and face the attackers with their horns. It is a good defense system evolved over tens of thousands of years. Sometimes we do this but more often than not the weaker of us gets pushed to the outside and swallowed by the attacking wolves of mankind.

“All men’s misfortunes spring from their hatred of being alone.” Jean De La Bruyere

When I listen to guys and girls in high school who cannot stand to be without a boyfriend or girlfriend it is about being alone. It is deep down a need, it is not love it is fear of being alone. So many of these kids are from split homes and not having someone is hard.

“No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world.” Aristotle

The great thinker may have hit the nail on the head to have everything is nothing without friends.

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.” Pearl S. Buck

I was thinking back to some earlier emails and how heart is so important. How we would wither without another to respond to. I borrow again from one of the most poignant emails in awhile a heartfelt response from a friend a career retired Marine and now with the NSC.

“One final thought off topic. I have been in the service of my country as a Marine and intelligence agent. I have always believed that my service in some small way protected our nation against those who would do us harm. I have served with many fine people over my career. Still when I reflect on those I admire the most I would have to point to the three of my friends and others like them in the world. They continue to believe love can change the world and make it a better place. I pray every night that will someday be the case.”

I edited out names as they do not mean much to those who do not know the people and those of us who know them have read and experienced the heartfelt love.
I wondered when I added this thought as I write about being alone. This fellow lost his wife not too long ago tragically. I will not go into too much detail but he was alone for a period of time. Not too long ago he found a soul mate and they married and started a new life on a horse farm I am envious. I for one have been impressed as the love between these two people shows every email every word and as I reread this passage above peace my dear friend.

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” Kurt Vonnegut

It is about building community and this is a very powerful thought from a great writer and thinker. Maybe we spend too much time trying to find relationships and forget community. When I first moved to Georgia I was introduced to a Greek word koinonia defined by as “a Christian fellowship or communion with God or with fellow Christians; said in particular of the early Christian community”. As I read and tried to understand this word I found material written by Clarence Jordan and that led to finding out about the Koinonia Farm in Americus Georgia.

“’Koinonia is an intentional Christian community founded by two couples, Clarence and Florence Jordan and Martin and Mabel England in 1942 as a “demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God.’ For them, this meant a community of believers sharing life and following the example of the first Christian communities as described in the Acts of the Apostles, even amidst the poverty and racism of the rural South.’ ‘Based on this radical call to discipleship, Koinonia’s very presence confronted racism, militarism and materialism with its commitment to: 1.Treat all human beings with dignity and justice 2. Choose love over violence. 3. Share all possessions and live simply. 4. Be stewards of the land and its natural resources.’”

I wonder what the world would be like if we all could follow these rules there is no religion in the four guidelines just humanities response to humanity. It is a community in a powerful way.

“Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.” Paul Tillich

The great theologian Tillich shows the paradox I started with. A friend who is alone and seeping towards loneliness yet cherishes her solitude as well for in it is her creativity and imagination.

“People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges” Joseph F. Newton

As I read this statement by Newton it is so true solitude is by choice and loneliness in effect is as well you build walls of defense or of offense to ward off people getting too close or seeing who you really are. It is interesting as I think deeper on this pondering as I say. Here it is a new week a new morning and new droppings on its way. I spent much of the weekend working on my readings and writing for graduate school and working on my herb garden as weather was excellent this weekend. In closing as I have for nearly twelve years now, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts