Friday, July 15, 2005

To Be Alone

Not long ago a good friend of mine recommended that I read Chuck Palahniuk's Stranger than Fiction. He was kind enough to photocopy some exerpts from it (I don't think Chuck would mind) for me, just to give a taste. I found the book's introduction particularly insightful. It addresses the lonely business of writing. Stories are about people, and you have to be around people in order to develope these stories, along with their tangible characters. Yet writing is largely an individual's task, and reading an individual experience. He likens this to an overall human impulse to be alone, that perhaps just as badly as many of us want and need to connect with other people we also want and need physical apartment, a place to be alone with our thoughts.

I think quite a few people are able to maintiain this balance in their lives, but there are many who gravitate to the extremes: The girl who can't be alone, who cannot drive to the corner market without convincing at least one friend to go with her. Or the guy who always refuses a social invite, and prefers to wander the streets solo, with his Walkman on ("Walkman" seems like such an old term, what would it be now, iPod?).

Just yesterday I found myself playing a round of golf all by my lonesome, and completely content that I was able to avoid being paired with anyone. I could attribute that to the fact that my game is embarressing. It's true that I don't wan't my slice on public display, but I think that just as much there was something utterly appealing about spending the afternoon ALL BY MYSELF. I can turn off my cell, intentionally not tell anyone where I am, and just enjoy that feeling you get in your stomach when no one is around. This is good. This is a time for self-awareness. This is a time for evaluation. This is a time for reconcilliation.

Then later, I turn back to the world. I turn my cell on, and write emails to friends, and kiss my wife, and become a better husband, a better co-worker, and hopefully a better human being. I tip the scales the other way for a while, because that is healthy living. And I can only take the humiliation of my golf swing for so long.

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