Friday, December 15, 2006
...the words alone, lonely, and loneliness are three of the most powerful words in the English language...Those words say that we are human; they are like the words hunger and thirst. But they are not words about the body, they are words about the soul...
When you live on your own for a long time, however, your personality changes because you go so much into yourself you lose the ability to be social, to understand what is and isn't normal behavior. There is an entire world inside yourself, and if you let yourself, you can go so deep inside it you will forget the way to the surface. Other people keep our souls alive, just like food and water does with our body.
A few years back some friends and I hiked to Jefferson Park...One evening we were sitting around a campfire telling stories when we spotted a ranger slowly walking toward our camp. He was a small man, thin, but he moved slowly as though he was tired. He ascended the small slope toward our fire by pushing his hands against his knees. When he met us he did not introduce himself, he only gazed into the fire for a while. We addressed him and he nodded. He kindly asked to see our permits...He studied each of them slowly, staring at the documents as if he had slipped into a daydream...Eventually, he handed our permits back to us, smiling, nodding, looking awfully queer. And then he stood there. He leaned against a tree only two feet from our campfire and watched us. We asked him a few questions, asked him if he needed anything else, but he kindly said no. Finally, I figured it out.
He was lonely. He was alone and going nuts.
He had forgotten how to engage people. I asked how long he had been at Jeff Park. Two months, he said. Two months, I asked all by yourself? Yeah, he said and smiled. That's a long time to be alone, I told him. Well, he said to me, this conversation has worn me out. He put his hands in his pockets and smiled again. He looked out into the distance and stretched his neck to look at the stars.
"Do believe I will head back to camp," he said. He didn't say good-bye. He walked down the little hill and into the darkness.
I know about that feeling, that feeling of walking out into the darkness. When I lived alone, it was very hard for me to be around people. I would leave parties early. I would leave church before worship was over so I didn't have to stand around and talk. The presence of people would agitate me. I was so used to being able to daydream and keep myself company that other people were an intrusion. It was terribly unhealthy.
Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller