Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thoughts On... Being Alone (Old Essay)

This is an old essay of mine that I recently came across and fixed up a bit. Mostly in structure. As always, thoughts and/or comments are appreciated!!


Recently, it seems that a great many of the people around me are having major issues with their love lives. Inevitably, because I care about the people, I get pulled in to those very same issues. Although for me, it's more in the consultant capacity than anything else. While I am taking part, these issues don't hit me as hard as they do the people more intimately involved.

But the part that is really interesting (and the reason for this essay) is how despite all the issues with love going on around me (both good and bad) I don't seem to share the driving impulse to be with someone and bring my love life into existence. While it would be nice to share my weird, dark world with a woman, I am also comfortable with the idea of being single for the rest of my life. Which ever way my future plays out is fine by me. People I tell this to, all ask the same question: "How can you deal with being alone?"

While technically I am not really alone (after all, I do have other humans around me), it's easy to understand what they mean and the question does have some merit. The wording of my answer varies depending on my mood, but the meaning behind it stays the same. I've been alone for so long now that it's become the natural status of my existence. Like gravity and the chemical composition of water molecules, my being "alone" is a built in function of my world and nothing to be lamented or worried over.

It seems that most people have this latent fear of dying alone with no loved ones around them. No one to care that they were in this world or that they are leaving it. As long as they have at least one person with them (although most would have a significant other and many children), their lives have mattered. I don't have this fear. I believe the reason I don't subscribe to this fear has to do with the fundamental principles upon which I base the way I view the world.

The natural questions to ask, of course, are what are the fundamental principles I'm talking about and how do they influence the way I view the world? While I'm at it, another question to throw in there is how do I see the world? Most of the principles that guide my worldview are beyond the scope of this essay. However, there are three that apply here.

1) The world as we know it, is completely and entirely independent of me.

In other words, if I had never existed, the world would still be here. The rules of gravity, light, television, etc. would all still be the same. Granted, there would be some differences, but the world (the universe, reality) doesn't depend on my being here for its existence. While I am a part of the world, and I am in the world, there is a limit to how far my connection to the world goes and consequently how much I can affect the world. There is a limit to how much I matter. There is a distinct line beyond which I can not reach. By necessity this implies a separation or aloneness here, and this is just based on my existing.

2) The world operates on rules.

To say these rules are complex would be like saying the universe is big. The rules of the world are orderly, concrete and unbreakable, yet fluid, chaotic, and subject to change at a moment's notice. And as if the rules themselves weren't complex enough, they also interact with each other on infinite levels and in infinite ways, creating even more nuances and variations, both great and small. The quest that science has undertaken fully supports this, since the basic mission of any scientist is to understand how the world works. And as anyone can see from how much life has changed in the past hundred or so years, knowledge of those rules, even as incomplete as our knowledge is, can have a powerful effect on a society or a person. This is one of the reasons why I place such a high value on gathering information and learning. The second reason is my third principle.

3) My world is built with the information I gather from everything around me.

The information my senses provide, the information people give me when I interact with them, and how that new information interacts with the information I already have is what makes up my world. Since, according to my first principle, the world is independent of me, the best way to ensure my continued existence is to make sure that my world is as close to the actual world as possible. This places enormous importance on the accuracy and integrity of the information I have. This is why truth, no matter how painful, is always preferable. Because no matter what pain the faulty information is attempting to avoid, the pain that is delivered when my world is shattered by the real world is infinitely worse.

So, what does any of what I just wrote have to do with being alone and my not having a problem with that?

Well let's look at this with my third principle in mind. I stated earlier that I'm not really alone. And, I'm not. There are other people on this planet, and I interact with them on a daily basis. To be completely accurate, this essay is really talking about being single and how I deal with the fact that I may be single for the rest of my life. If my world is built with the information I gather, part of my world is built with my memories & experiences. Since I have been single most of my life, those memories & experiences would suggest that being single is my natural state of being and that being in a relationship is the aberration. Add to that my second principle: the world operates on rules. What rule is there that says I must in a relationship? Or that being in a relationship is necessary or even desirable? In other words, there are many benefits to being single.

For example, being single allows me to build my own world. It allows me to define who I am as person, what I like and don't like, and what I will or will not do without the direct influence of a single outside party. How many relationships are there where one person is completely and totally dependent on the other for everything? Not only regarding financial concerns, but also to define opinions, like a guy asking his girlfriend "Honey, what do I like to eat?" How many relationships define the person's total identity, like a girl introducing herself as "I'm his girlfriend, Diana" which implies the relationship is her identity and her name is a role she's playing in the relationship as opposed to "I'm Diana, his girlfriend." How many relationships define what action can or cannot be taken, like a guy saying "I can't have this burger cause my girlfriend is a vegan." As a single person, those influences are absent in the creation of my world. I am solely responsible for my actions or lack thereof. Another example, I have a great many female friends and being single allows me to be able to spend any amount of time alone with them with no pressure of any kind. For those of you reading this that are in a relationship, imagine being able to spend as much time as you want with someone of the opposite sex without having the thought of what your significant other would say or think about what you're doing constantly running in the background. And these are just a few examples of the freedoms being single provides.

However, all that was stated above is just theoretical. As I said earlier, in my world, my default status is to be single, which means that right now I am the way I am supposed to be. My experiences do not support the assumption that being with someone is the way to be happy and that I should be devoting every ounce of my energy to finding someone to be with for the rest of my life. I have been in relationships that started with great happiness, but then degenerated into mistrust and confusion. Not to mention that during the time I was actively searching for someone, the never ending series of rejections kept me in one of the darkest states of depression I've ever been in for the greater part of seven years. And it's not just my own experiences that go against the assumption. I have seen relationships self-destruct for no reason, seen people stay in relationships that don't even come close to making them happy for years on end, and watched as friendships, that had lasted for years, were destroyed for the sake of relationships.

Another benefit of my worldview is that since I don't make the common mistake that my every happiness depends on being with someone, I'm free to be happy right now as I am and enjoy the life I'm currently leading and not crying about my life while hiding in the dream of what my life could be like if only I had a woman with me.

The statement I wrote earlier, I am not alone, has many facets. One of these was discussed above. Another is that despite my worldview, I have to deal with people who operate under the assumption that being single is a painful situation that must be rectified immediately. In other words, I have to deal with people who operate in a completely opposite way of thinking. How do I deal with these people? This is where a combination of all three principles come in. The other people around me are in their separate worlds, each one with a different set of rules completely distinct from my own and they are working to build their world as they see fit. If my own world has any validity, then I can not, in good conscience, deny the validity of their world, despite the flaws I see in their system of logic.

My world isn't perfect. There are many problems in my life, and the way I see things has helped cause some of them and has helped in developing solutions for some of them as well. But, I can say this, my worldview lets me enjoy my life being single (or being alone) because I don't tremble down to roots of my soul or have despair clutch my heart in a death grip at the thought of spending my life as a bachelor.

As for relationships, I do believe that they offer many rewards and are worth the work it takes to start and maintain one. In my experience, I have seen wonderous transformations occur with two people coming together. And, I am open to the idea that at some point in the future, I will be in a relationship again. But I am not going to let my not being in a relationship stop me from being happy with my life.


  1. The only real question to be answered regarding being alone is: are you truly happy?

    If the answer is yes, then congrats on being a bachelor for life.

    But if for any reason you are BS'ing yourself and you're really deep down in depression . . . then being alone is not your natural state.

    I agree that people tend to meddle in the affairs of friends or family that are single. They automatically assume that person is unhappy. It's hard not to be cynical when faced with such an onslaught of well-wishers and meddlesome do-gooders trying to set things right in your own life.

    For me, I've never had to look at the world in such a dichotomy of happy-alone vs sad-alone. All I know is that I saw someone I liked and wanted to get to know better, we clicked, and the rest is history. I neither think about nor care about whether this means I *need* to always be in a relationship. I'm happy with my life, and that's all that matters.

    That all being said, you're never going to convince everbody that you, Rodney, are truly happy alone. You sound rather more resigned to your fate than happy. Which shouldn't be, of course.

    Still, you seem well grounded and "normal" about your approach to this topic. Your essay isn't whiny or self-pitying, which speaks to your intelligence. Excellently written, my friend!

  2. This comes across as 'resigned to my fate'? Really? Not what I was going for at all. It started as an answer to friends question about why I'm not worried about ending up alone in life, and just expanded.

    Thanks for the compliment on the writing, from you I take that as high praise!

  3. Well, I know you better. I know and you know that you're not resigned to your fate.

    But to a stranger, I think it comes across as such, yes. Maybe I'm wrong.