Cursed to solitude

Like the best of threats, it is subtle and never fully vocalized. It is not stated in a form resembling a legal contract or prediction.

Instead it is implied, snidely and mockingly: you don’t want to be alone, do you? You’ll be a friendless loser, and you’ll die alone.

It’s an offshoot of the modern commitment to being bored much of the time and thus writing oneself a blank check to salve that boredom in the pursuit of new pleasures.

Without constant external stimulus, most of our citizens are entirely lost. They need a form of stimulus outside the self, whether a television, a sports game, the linear process of a job or even conversation, which seems to be why many of them are always “talking” on the cell phone even if no actual information is exchanged.

The fear of being bored and alone is a fear of social judgment, in which our friends degrade us for not being as socially successful as they are, but is also a fear of a lack of the substitute for meaning that is derived from external stimulus. This process of externalization replaces meaning by distracting us with social obligations and pleasures, which supplants our will toward specific tasks with a generalized tendency to socialize, and thus makes us “think backward” to justify our social time by inventing goals that it could serve.

It’s like the average person who gets off of work, knowing they have six hours of free time before sleep and another work day. They go home; there’s a guitar, or a potter’s wheel, or a small business to start up, etc. This is what they really want to accomplish in life but they have trouble facing it. Then a friend calls, and maybe needs something or offers something, and suddenly they’re off to the pub again to spend time socializing. On the way home hours later, they rack their brains for reasons their decision was a good one, and for reasons that this socializing time was more important than accomplishing their actual goals.

We live in a world defined by this process of socialization. The foundation of our time is the equal validity and correctness of all points of view and lifestyles. This means that no one can be promoted to a level of being better than anyone else, but that if a person transgresses against what We The People think is important, that person can be downgraded. Thus we exist in uneasy detente with our brothers and sisters: we support their right to equal validity and unfettered individualism so long as they support the same for us, which is predicated on both of us swearing to the dogma of universal equality and validity. We are dependent on social validation because we depend on the herd for our own freedoms.

Instead of having a society where we are each given social roles, we all have the same role. This makes the privileges of that role turn out to be more precarious, not less. Since we depend upon the herd for our validation, and thus for our power and our freedoms, we have put all our eggs in one basket. If the crowd turns on us, we lose everything. In its eyes, we have a binary status: for-us or against-us. The definitions of those can change without notice, depending on the whim of whoever says whatever clever or outlandish meme that the crowd is following at that instant.

The result is that we are forced to pay attention and interact socially with others in order to avoid being caught out by a shift in herd judgment. This in turn teaches us to be dependent on that constant flow of external stimulus. When it is gone, we have no idea what to do with ourselves. We become bored, and to fill that void, we begin doing nice things for ourselves. The boredom serves as a handy excuse to justify shopping, drinking, eating or whatever else our bodily impulses and mental obsessions want to follow. However, the void cannot be filled with distractions. Those only defer the consequences of the disease, not make us well.

When we focus on the self, we cut ourselves out of any actual meaning and condemn ourselves to use surrogates like distraction. Meaning is not a property of the individual alone, but of the individual interacting with the world toward some purpose, like creation or conquest. Without this, we can have luxury, but not significance, and as a result the boredom cycle begins again.

The implied menace of modern society is that if we do not conform, we will be isolated in boredom and loneliness. The grim reality is that we are always lonely, because external stimulus is not meaning but a near-cousin that is easily mistaken for meaning. Perhaps the greatest fear of our time, isolation, is the cure for the constant distraction that keeps us from realizing our dreams.

10 Comments

  1. Mr. Sardonicus says:

    Actually, I use the Nietzsche Index myself. This simple and easy to use diagnostic allows practically anyone to accurately gauge their level of solitude and personal growth.

  2. Bill Wilson says:

    Someone asked me the other day why I am good at so many things. I can draw and paint, I can program computers, I can write, I can play guitar, I can really wreck someone’s day in a streetfight.

    Why? Because over the years I’ve whiled away many lonely hours on worthwhile pursuits.

    A great many other people are experts on the subject of The Simpsons.

    I’ve spent a whole lot of time playing strategy games too but I suspect that strategy games transfer to a lot of other things.

    Herd employment is also, largely, a mug’s game. Assuming 10 people per department, with one from each department promoted to the next, you have a 1% chance of getting into middle management, in return for which you’ve competed with 99 other people at the game of who can best whore themselves to the company.

    Carve out your own niche. Save up a nest-egg (America is set up to stop you from doing this), start your own business while still working at the whorehouse. Doubledip and run the business from your smartphone. Then tell your boss to fuck off and never look back.

    The road less traveled, quite literally the road with fewer people on it, is the only way to get anywhere interesting.

  3. crow says:

    Solitude is the only real chance you get to notice things.
    There’s a lot to notice.

  4. Jason says:

    Great article.

  5. Jason says:

    I disconnected from my social scene and wrote an 85,000 word novel about the insanity of modern dating, it was the only way I could get it done. Publishing it on Kindle in the next week or so!

  6. Corey says:

    Bravo! Excellent post! I have nothing against socializing but it is done entirely to much and for a bogus reason- to prove you have “a life.” A life, of course, means drinking together and talking nonsense.

  7. Meow Mix says:

    Thumbs up to this article too. In my early teens and twenties I was pretty extroverted and spent time nearly every day going to bars, clubs, parties, social events, and the like. As time went on I began to value alone time and people began to think there was something very wrong with me. Of course, there was nothing wrong with me but everyone had to try to convince me there was. Now I can spend entire weekends without seeing a single human being and my life has yet to suffer because of it. Solitude brings clarity and allows us to consider what we value in life. Some people are biologically predisposed to be introverted and extroverted, and there is nothing we can change about that.

  8. Paul M says:

    Don’t agree that the point of free time, of socialising, is to accomplish something external. We engage in optional activities in order to create memories. Our memories define and identify who we are.

  9. Heather says:

    Very incisive article, a subject that quite often flows through my mind. I never understand the constant, desperate drive for acceptance of others, like that of a death sentence. They are always deeply afraid of being alone, yet will never truly know it’s unhindered merit.

    1. Corey says:

      Thank you Heather. You nailed it completely.

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