Sunday, January 26, 2003

I woke up this morning with a sense of alienation that I’m having a hard time shaking off.

I grew up very oddly. I had an odd role model. I grew up strong in the belief that, if you want to be great, you have to be different. You don’t go out purposely to be different, but you embrace that which is different inside of you, and you run with it. Normal people herd together, and they find strength in it, sure. But the truly great people, the ones that they tell stories about, years still after they die, those people go it on their own and that’s quite a lot of what makes them great.

Humanity is a strange condition. Science tells us that we are herd animals and religion tells us that it is not good for man to be alone. But man’s impulses do not lead only to the pack mentality. The beginning of morality is an individual man’s stance that what someone else is doing is somehow terribly wrong. The first twinge of civilization is the imposition of the ban; the attempt to cast out the evil one just as we cast out any other thing which is filthy and defiles us. A scientific anomaly is the lone wanderer without his pack; but not an unexplainable one. And religion tells us too, that each man was created to walk a separate and unique path through life and that on the last day each man will be responsible for his own sins. Man knows what it means to be alone, and not everything in him rebels against the fact.

Loneliness has an oddly defensive nature. I lament my solitude; but I do not try to escape it. Loneliness has a way of manifesting at one’s core. As for me, I never touch people, and I do not like to be touched. The touch of another human being is jarring; it’s the spark of the knowledge of the reality of the other. And paradoxically, the knowledge of the divine spark common to all people. It’s like two separated parts of a clasp snapping together; the individual ceases to be and is absorbed into the greater whole. Solitude is incompatible with touch. And though there is something in man which longs to be clasped together with his brethren, there somehow remains amongst those prone to solitude, the sneaking suspicion that men have only ever been brought together for armies, and holocausts, and judgment days, and that, such things are not really desirable. And additionally, that, while a clasp is certainly much more a clasp when set together; a set together clasp is somehow finished and final, whereas when the clasp is broken, there is more yet to be seen and done. Solitude takes comfort in the incomplete because loneliness, in many ways, is the passionate love of having many options.

It strikes me that I’ve chosen something of a solitary path through life. I grew up very alone in many ways. My very early childhood, I don’t remember as lonely; though I do recall a distinct feeling of somehow being other. As in the song I sang as a child as part of a game: “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things is not the same.” I always felt as if I could group people into one category and then myself I would leave as its own category. This may have been egocentricism. Perhaps I just thought myself overly unique and failed to understand that I wasn’t so special as to have required my own biological kingdom. But by the time I’d hit regular school age, I was alone in a way which was more than categorical. I was physically alone. I was alone not because I was different from other children; all children are different from one another. Rather instead, I was alone because I clung to my differences and wielded them like a sword to fend off assimilation on all of the points that young children think important to their societies.

Today, I feel as if I am overly aware of the surfaces and lines which define reality as we know it. Though there are days when I am so convinced of the transitory nature of everything, that I’m somewhat surprised a table holds against my knuckle when I knock on it rather than allowing my hand to pass through or somehow be absorbed; today, I’m seeing life in shades of geometry. I have no natural affinity for Euclid; but this morning, at least, I find myself more comfortable with Euclid's proofs than with the mystic's hypnotic stare.