Dearest Rachel –
If there be aloneness
Let it be
for the pleasure of one’s own company
for the striving to understand oneself
for the joy of relaxation
Mya Anderson (PHS Class of 1988) Roundtable 1986
but most of all
Let it be
I have carried this little slice of wisdom, penned by a classmate your age back when I was still in high school, all this time. It’s weird to think that something this profound could come from someone this young. We tend to think that everything we said or wrote when we were of a certain age becomes cringeworthy over time, but even at my age, I can’t find anything wrong with this statement.
There really is a time when aloneness is a desirable thing. Everyone needs ‘alone time;’ moments of contemplative quiet to think on one’s own. Time to be alone with one’s thoughts, or with one’s God. Even sometimes, to simply rest; at such times, another’s presence would only serve as a distraction.
But these are things one needs or wants to do. To be alone when one doesn’t want to be, that is an awful state to be in. And yet, once upon a time, I thought it was going to be my life… and I was okay with it.
Actually, more than okay. There was a time when I thought of people as being just sources of at best, distraction, and at worst, pain. Why bother chasing after companionship when you ran the risk of rejection? Best to set yourself aside from everything and everybody, and just stay safe.
I did try to be otherwise during my college years – with limited success, as you well remember. Fake extroversion just came across as obnoxious, to hear you tell it, years later. But by the time I left, and sent you that letter, I figured any possibility of being anything other than alone had passed me by.
I had no idea that you would be moved by it, and prevent my fears from being reality.
And now that I’m forced into a situation where you are no longer with me, I cannot imagine life without you – or at least, without someone – by my side. I mentioned this to Ellen the other day, admitting that I hadn’t the strength of character to go the rest of my life on my own the way she and Kevin and Erin have. I was surprised when she responded in kind; that it takes a form of character strength to live with someone that she acknowledged lacking.
The thing is, she may be dimly aware that there’s a different lifestyle that she could have had, but never found it compelling, and hasn’t felt like she necessarily “missed out” on anything, even though she acknowledges being aware that that path was one that she was ‘supposed’ to take, from a societal perspective. On the other hand, I have been both alone and with someone, and cannot for the life of me imagine myself going back to being alone.
And yet, when it comes down to it, we are in fact, each of us, alone in this world by default. The path we walk, though we may be accompanied by others throughout most of our travel through life, is ours and ours alone. No one walks with us every step of the way, and no one completely sees everything we experience, nor interprets them the way we do.
It starts right from the beginning. We may be surrounded by medical personnel at the time, and of course our mother is there pushing us out, but (twins and other multiple births aside) we each experience our birth on our own – although we eventually forget the process over a fairly short time. And (as you know), we may be similarly surrounded in our final moments, but as consciousness fades for the final time, there is no one there going toward the light with us. It may well be that we are beckoned forward by someone (or Someone) – you would know this better than I – but we take those steps toward that voice on our own.
And in between those two moments, our brain sits in the cockpit of this homunculus built out of meat and bone, piloting us forward in silent solitude for as long as its organic vessel can hold out. During that time, it senses the outside world through various feedback channels, interacting (or not) with other similar vessels in the space that we’re given to inhabit and venture forth through. But it never truly is able to link up with another mind, trapped as they are like us within their own individual vehicles.
No one else can know your sadness [L A heart knows its emotional distress],Proverbs 14:10, Expanded Bible
and strangers cannot share your joy.
We can try our level best to explain the sensations we experience and endure, but even to this day, science is still unable to truly understand or quantify such basic concepts as pain – to say nothing of the likes of joy, or sorrow…
“There are three things that are too ·hard [wonderful] for me, really four I don’t understand:Proverbs 30:18,19, Expanded Bible (emphasis added)
the way an eagle flies in the sky,
the way a snake slides over a rock,
the way a ship sails on the sea,
and the way a man and a woman ·fall in [or make] love.
No, each of us experiences everything uniquely within ourselves. What I felt in any given situation wasn’t necessarily what you felt, and vice versa. We may, for simplicity’s sake, assume as such, and that can serve as a rough guideline, but it isn’t really true, and we really ought to know this.
We. Are. On. Our. Own.
And there is no choosing available to us.
Now, of course, there is the argument that no, we are not alone; God is with us at all times. He knows everything that we do, think and feel. He’s even gone so far as to limit Himself to a mortal frame, and assemble a meat-and-bone vehicle of His own, to be able to state that He, too, has experienced what it is like to be human – the pain, the joy, the friendships, the loneliness – which is more empathy than most deities of myth or legend can claim.
It’s just that… again, while He knows (both from His basic omniscience and actual experience) what it’s like to be mortal, does He know what it’s like to be this particular mortal?
Or is that all part and parcel of being within each of His children? In which case, I guess we really aren’t alone.