Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Garrison Keillor Wants To Be Alone

Not an unreasonable wish, you will say. I concur.

Garrison Keillor writes a paean to solitude, to the occasional wish to be alone. To reflect in tranquility, to muse, to allow the mind to do its own thing. Link here.

It doesn't sound so bad. Surely, people who cannot be alone, who cannot, as Pascal famously said, sit alone in a room, are revealing an underlying despair.

Perhaps they do not like their own company. Perhaps they need constant reinforcement, lest they feel completely depersonalized.

Of course, Keillor is not recommending that we all go out and become hermits. Or that we take the ultimate reactionary step of trying to get lost in nature. Or that we retreat into hermetically sealed rooms, cut off from texting, sexting, tweeting, and email.

As William Saletan has written on, electronic connections are virtual, not real. Even if they are coming to take the place of real connections between real people, this surely seems like a trend that we would do well to resist.

If these virtual connections were so fulfilling, people would not be so compulsive about maintaining them.

Keillor's point is well taken. As connected as we all are nowadays, connection does not mean anything if we never have a few moments for ourselves.

I suspect that people who are always connected are really disconnecting. When someone sits in a meeting reading emails on his Iphone, he is disconnected from the task at hand, from the people who are really sitting near him, with whom he ought to be connecting.

The cure for the mania to stay electronically connected is to carve out a few minutes, or even more, in your day to be alone with yourself. Get to know yourself; you might even like your company.

Once you are comfortable with your own presence, perhaps you will feel better about being present to others. You might even feel that you are not constantly obliged to absent yourself from meetings, from dinners, from parties, to send and receive text messages.

It would be a step in the right direction.

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