Wednesday, October 14, 2009

is solitude the beginning of wisdom?

maybe a quiz is in order. do you wake up in the morning, totally alone, thanking god you don't have to talk with anyone? when you break wind, are you relieved no one can hear or smell? stumbling over your syntax, does a wave of relief wash over you, knowing the constant critic of the other not present?

well, on personality tests i assume you'd be pegged as a loner. and mostly, that's bad! yes, we're meant to be convivial, so the the social code goes. if you spend too much time alone, you'll begin to send mail bombs from a cabin in montana, just to have a feeling of being connected.

on the other hand, what if you can't stand solitude? you find yourself talking with the 411 or 911 ladies, making up excuses? or you turn on the tv and yell back at it? the famous walker of baudelaire hits the streets, rubbing shoulders with all kinds of riff-raff, simply to prove he/she is human. in the shower he/she sings love songs to the ghosts of steam. don't we populate our world, no matter what we do, talking with cats and dead relatives?

imaginary friends can be a madness, but so comforting! and what is the point of being alone? the owner of an ethnic clothing store recently returned from africa. the villagers wouldn't let him go to the outhouse by himself. once he got back to the u.s.a, personal distance seemed like heaven.

i hate to repeat myself, however my mother really did say to me, 'you spent so much isolated time as a child, i never thought you'd have much to do with people.' maybe i learned it from her. the psychologist winnicot maintains we learn to be individuals by playing about our mother's feet. we go off on our own, play awhile, and come back. yes, mother's still there. happening over and over again, it gives confidence.

and look at the fact many if not most of us had our own rooms as children. this stimulates the imagination. in fact, as opposed to ghetto kids sleeping five in a bed, middle-class kids don't fear other people as much as they do their own fantasies. lacking external enemies, they find them in their dreams. no wonder facebook and cell-phones save them from anxiety. 'you are not alone.'

unfortunately, if this sometime hermit can say so, the ability to be by yourself does seem to have benefits, and i'd like to quote from an interview with the photographer tina barney, who at 28 began spending time in the darkroom. the interviewer says, "Why do you think spending time alone is so important?" and tina barney replies, "It's the most important thing of all. When you're by yourself, you have to be able to have a discussion with yourself. You have to be able to turn your own self on. Nobody else can do it. If you can continue to do that, you are going to continue to be switched on for the rest of your life."

there it is, the definitive answer. at the end of my 47th fire season, i'm grateful to have tina barney on my side.

some final lookout pics, as well as re-entry dance pics from last week:

this blog is dedicated to my friend laurie who is finding an empty house (except for the cats, gracie and lewis) trying and hollow.