This is something that’s always been central to my being – my way of internally balancing. By the time that I was about ten years old I was going off on overnight hunting trips alone. Later I’d take long walkabouts lasting months in remote areas and be very happy to greet fellow humans when I finally came down from the hills. I rather like people, at least a lot of them, but don’t necessarily need or want them with me all the time. I just had a boisterous dinner with good friends and it was very nice. It would be nice if tomorrow and maybe the next day or two I didn’t see anyone.
There’s another very different sensibility and it seems to be the norm, as well as I can tell. I’ll use my 11 year old Nephew Case as an example. It’s not that he’s an epitome of such behavior, but just a convenient local reference. Case has access to hundreds of acres of woods and meadows right here. He has a hotrod ATV and a very nice mountain bike. My holiday presents to him have typically been outdoor gear. He got a pocketknife and a down sleeping bag when he was 6. But he never goes outdoors alone – never. He won’t even look out a window unless compelled to by someone else. When he’s in the house alone, even if the rest of us are doing something outside, his world is on a screen or the pages of a fantasy book. When he’s riding in my car I forbid the use of his iPad, hoping that he’ll pay attention to the drive. But when he’s not talking to me he’s studying the interior of the car – anything but looking out.
This seems very strange to me, but I notice it in most other people as well. I can’t imagine Case, or for that matter his mother, my sister, going off on an overnight trip alone with no human contact and no distractions. What seems to me vital – time alone with my own thoughts -- seems anathema to most. It seems that most people in our culture have some aversion to looking at the world from their own viewpoint, and I just don’t understand this at all. I have friends who are fine and intelligent people, yet they defer to their churches or universities or spouses or friend groups on moral or political matters. It’s as though they don’t trust their own insight, or are somehow afraid to use it.
I feel like the oddball here because almost everyone that I know seems to live largely outside themselves, and I have a hard time understanding that. It looks like people running around and thriving on external validation without ever looking within to know themselves, or even wanting to. I don’t know. I might have to drag out my old backpack for another long walkabout and conjure on it some more.
You're not an oddball. I'm one of those who need quiet time on my own - for balance, to order my thoughts and to connect with silence. My health won't allow me hikes in the wild - and no wild around here - but I can find the silence in an empty house or even in total concentration on something trivial. It's a way to heal myself, and it even works for people I meet. My ADHD-friend calmes down in fifteen minutes - it makes her more balanced just to be here.
I enjoy alone time. For me, it's time for music or a good book or a bike ride when the weather is supportive. It's time for me, time to take in the silence and settle into that.
If I had the money, I would buy some land and build a house far out in the boondocks, 30 miles from the nearest neighbor, 30 miles from the nearest public road, and 100 miles from the nearest large city. I would also try to find a place that was not near airplane routes.
I like the quietness to be found in a large forest. I don't like the sounds of the city. Barking dogs, slamming doors, people talking on their cell phones & screaming kids in stores, blaring boom-boxes, car sound systems, inadequately muffled motorcycles & other vehicles, diesel trucks, tires on the highway, airplanes, helicopters, and trains.
Despite my dislike of noise, I very seldom get the ambition to make excursions to the countryside. However, I have built my entertainment room/computer room/bedroom in the basement, and have soundproofed it.
Having said all that, I still would not want to be completely alone for very long. I would love to live in the boonies, but if I could find one or more compatible people, I would like them to live nearby. I would also like a companion that lived with me, but they would have to be VERY compatible. In 73 years, I have never found such a person.
I value my alone time but it has changed. Years ago it was reading. Today I have little time to read.
Over the years I have become alcoholic, first fighting off religious guilt, today just because I am. That has changed also because today I drink about twice a week. Some want to argue with me that this is not alcoholism and they make up a name for it. OK, have it your way. Let's also say that I am from Mars. I hate how people brand you and catagorize when they don't know the first thing about you and also do not face modern medical facts.
I still listen to my music but it's not as important to me as it was years ago. Drinking and listening to my music used to be a big thing and they went together often. Today I entertain myself with computer, watch multiple TV and movie programs on computer, even though I build antennas and have mastered over the air TV. Basically self taught on computer, I can watch TV and listen to radio all over the world. You might say this is the center point of my life.
Even so, I need my quiet time. People are constantly playing a game on a hand held app, and this goes from the very young into your boss at work who would rather play a game than correct a problem. I don't understand it. Games on my computer have never even been unpacked. I don't play them and could not care less. I would rather be doing something outside in the yard than have this modern compulsion about viewing a small screen and fiddling with something with your hands while you are totally blind to what goes on around you.
I see it as a need to be involved in something that you think is bigger than you, and I see this need growing in almost everyone today that I meet. It's almost an anxiety, but I prefer my own company and can entertain myself just fine. I've been that way all my life.
I crave alone time. Adore my friends, and social time, but LOVE my alone time just as much. There was a time I didn't, and this tells me that I've grown to enjoy being in my own skin. I've grown to enjoy my alone time, whereby I don't have to please anyone but myself.
The former theist in me wonders...is this selfish?
The former theist in me wonders...is this selfish?
No. Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own could get you over some of that training.
@ Luara, thank you for that...And to back track a bit, I didn't mean to imply that only theists are selfless, certainly not. lol I thought about it after I posted it, and hmmm...I need to clarify that point. Thanks for the reference...
@ Free, yes...we do expend way too much energy caring about what someone else is thinking, and if we have been a true friend, or truly generous and kind, and that person is not reciprocating...BYE. No explanation necessary. I figure that if someone is disrespectful of me, I needn't bother explaining why I'm no longer going to deal with him/her any longer. It's the essence of being free...and learning to respect one's self. As it relates to the OT of the thread, it is very hard to enjoy spending time alone with one's self, if he/she doesn't respect him/herself.
I like this thread. :)
When I'm on walkabout I sometimes decide to not take books, and certainly never a phone, and I often leave my journal and watch stashed at the bottom of my pack and unseen for weeks. At the beginning I carry on a lively conversation with myself -- hashing out things from back in the frantic world or thinking up new things to write or trying to rationally understand things that are happening. Maybe I'll sing or hum a favorite tune. But after a while, usually a few weeks but sometimes months, I get to a point of no longer thinking in words, and that's what I go out there for. That sense all but disappears very quickly when I come back to civilization, and is almost impossible to re-invoke in any sustained way when I'm down here.
It's hard to use words to describe such a way of thought, so I'll give an example as a hint. When I was 6 to 8 years old I used to spend summers with my Grandmother who lived alone on a mountain, and had for most of her life. She never married, and bore and raised my father alone up there hunting & gathering. She had never had electricity or plumbing or a timepiece of any kind except for old calendars that she kept for the pictures. She kept time by the turn of the seasons and the slope of sunlight and the movements of wildlife and the urgings of her gut.
One day when we were down at the creek getting water I asked her what time it was. She glanced at the sky and looked at me oddly and said, "Hit'll be dinnertime d'rec'ly." I didn't understand. I was looking for a number like 4:30. It took many years for me to understand, and those years involved becoming intimate with the timing of seasons and the speed of hummingbird wings and the clock that is the flow of a river and yes, the machinations of a corporate world. I now understand that Grandma didn't glance at the sky and think, "Oh it's about 4:30." which would have been a meaningless number to her. She simply glanced at the sky and it told her all that she needed.
That's thinking without need of words, and is the only direct way to live that I know. Most people don't have access to wilderness that I had, and are far more dependent on the social structures in their lives. I try to grasp this as the good thing that it probably is, but it's difficult. I see normal people with seemingly disquieted minds that rely on the input of others -- always humming a tune or thinking about what they'll say next. I remember my Father coming home and sitting down by the fire, taking out his hearing aid and mumbling to himself until he fell asleep. He never seemed to have a quiet moment just staring at the fire. Always there was an internal struggle framed in words.
This is how I suspect that most live their lives -- either with the internal dialogue of an introvert or the external stimulus of an extrovert. In either case they're not really alone with themselves -- they're following the lines of a play. They never simply glance up at the sky and leave it at that.
On being alone with yourself. I like it, but it may not be a good idea. God doesn't like you being alone with yourself. He's afraid that you might masturbate. That's why he watches you all the time.
I'm not full-blood Indian, probably something less than half (that's not me in the avatar -- I swiped that image from a Richard Dawkins essay -- it's an artist's concept of a cross between Sapiens and Neanderthal). I can more easily pass for a Scotsman than a Cherokee. In the communities of my Native American relatives, I find much to admire in their deep sense of place and long view (both forward and backward) of relationships. I inherited my reverence for and appreciation of my place in nature from them.
But there is much wooly mysticism and superstition in those societies as well. Some old, and some not. Hell, most of my Cherokee relatives and acquaintances are devout Christians -- a religion particularly attractive to oppressed people. It's similar in other tribes; a stone cross stands over the cemetery at the Wounded Knee memorial in South Dakota. And the traditional religions are deeply steeped in mysticism that projects agency onto inanimate things and takes occurrences not understood as "divine". Hey, I respect rocks and clouds too, but I don't ascribe them "spirits".
When I was a young child, my Father, who never knew his Father, convinced me that Pikes Peak looming over our back yard was my Grandfather. It was a comforting delusion, and I was proud to think of myself as a descendant of such a grand thing. I never held any religious belief, but did internalize that sense that we descended from the land. That's not an invalid view -- we only exist because this earth exists, and we have grown from it as has any plant or other animal. In that sense we do share lineage, but it goes back far, far beyond the few generations that a child can grasp.
I stop short of ascribing anthropomorphic attributes to rocks. I'd rather look at it from the other end and try to figure out how we evolved from rocks. I love and respect my Native American kin, but give no more credence to their religion than to any other. It's valuable insight into individual minds and the workings of societies created by those minds over time. Beyond that, I don't see it as a working epistemology.