You know, I’ve never been one for companionship. I could easily live my life as a bearded recluse in a cabin, so long as all my basic needs—food, water, shelter—were met. At best, I’d need a dog or one-eyed racoon for company. If I wrote Feast of Fates in those conditions, it would be a very different novel. But I didn’t. I travelled a bit. I met a small number of souls dedicated and kind enough to take the time to break through my shell. We all have a shell, though mine is thicker than most. Or it was. Life, and the people we encounter in our journey, transform us. For better or worse, our interactions make us who we are.
I saw some friends last night, and have plans to see more next weekend. Those of you in my closest circle know this is an unusual occurrence. I tend to punctuate periods of intense seclusion with bursts of social activity. It’s how I’ve lived for 36 years. I’m in one of those periods of activity at the moment, with events this weekend and the next. Often I consider what has made me this way. What it is that compels me toward solitude. I read stories instead of playing sports. I prefer quiet to noise. Yes, humans evolve based on their environment, but I have always sought out an environment that compliments my personality.
I daresay being alone confers a number of advantages. So long as you can manage your time and emotions, you get quite a bit accomplished. You learn to like yourself, and not vaingloriously; for you see yourself at your least veiled. There is no pretense held when wearing pyjama bottoms and t-shirts. No one to impress, not a glimmer of glamor to be found. The only real enemies to a true hermit are interruption, and loneliness. Because as much as we quiet-folk like being alone, we don’t really want to exist in a formless limbo. Sometimes we love the world so much that it aches to talk about it. Words fumble in the mouth, making us look the fool. Punishing us for only wanting to express passion.
Speaking from personal experience, having something in your soul that you cannot voice to others is torturous. I think that a lot of mental illness comes from mental isolation, and an inability to communicate. Someone who is silent, is not always thoughtful or at peace. I fought against my own isolation for many, many years. Once as a teenager, I fought a great battle with my silence. But that was then, and this is now. I’m not trying to be glib about the situation. To the contrary it was quite dire at the time: doctors and a psych ward and all sorts of dreary memories. Especially when I realized that I didn’t want to be there, that what I had done was a terrible, and thankfully not resounding, mistake. Depression feels all consuming. You see nothing else but your own darkness and refuse, stubbornly and stupidly, to see any light. I fell into that darkness because I could not express myself to the people close to me.
Rilke, one of my favorite poet/ philosophers talks a lot about “silence”. A lot. The man lavished himself in solitude. He prized himself on his ability to detach himself from the world. For example: “I beg all those who love me to love my solitude too, for otherwise I would have to conceal myself even from their eyes and hands, like a wild animal hiding from enemies bent on its capture.” Take note that while this expresses a desire for solitude, he is still writing to someone. In fact, he wrote many letters to friends and fellows. He was intimately connected with the world even though he partook in less of it than most. Although he was a hermit, he did not choose separation because he despised life, instead, he used distance to enhance his observations.
I’ve been all over the place here, but it’s one of those days. My mind doesn’t work in a linear fashion, so thank you for bearing with me. Still, the point is (it’s good to wrap things up with a point): the need for seclusion is as much a construction of our mind as it is inherent—in degrees—to our personality. Solitude can lead us to places of enlightenment, as easily as it can lead us to the depths of depression. To all those quiet-souls out there, either embrace it, or change it, because you have the power to bring about both ends. Do not drift in the gray doldrums of feeling in-between. Do not be lonely when you can be solitary. There is a difference, a vast and distinct one, and I know that today. I feel it as I write these words, as I think of those of you who are reading this tonight, tomorrow, or in a year from now. I am not alone. I shall never be alone. I am a part of the universe, of the lives of my friends and loved ones. Even if I only watch through a window, and do not enter the joy of life itself, that is all I need. A painting of life gives me sustenance. I see, and I adore. I do not long, because I do not need to be present to know love.
I think that made sense. And I shall leave the matter there. Stay solitary, outgoing, or whatever you must be to know peace.
All my love,
P.S. Exciting things are happening for Feast of Fates soon! I’ll share the developments in the next few weeks.