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The Tinkered Mind
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March 26th, 2022
A French philosopher once wrote “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” There’s a lot of truth to it. How much of human behavior is an attempt to indulge in a distraction? It’s almost an eye roll at this point to mention how often we look at our phones. We get it, we know. There’s something that’s not quite right about what we’re doing, or how we’re doing it. Whether it’s a fear fueled need to avoid something within our own selves or just a tiny squirt of dopamine in a vain attempt to find some little pleasure, doesn’t really matter.
What would it mean if all of humanity could comfortably sit in a room alone, quietly? Perhaps it means that we’d all be immensely entertained by the moment and how wild it is that we even exist and we’d be fascinated by the walls and the air around us, and sensation of gravity, and the fact that we have hands, and we can feel the air as we breath, almost like a taste, like clean cold water on a hot day. This certainly sounds kind of nice - childlike, playful, full of wonder! But if anything it’s merely describing a different way of being entertained. (It’s absolutely vastly superior form of entertainment for those who can actually dune into this orientation of consciousness ) Regardless, what it also means is a much different level of self-awareness. Many of the behaviors we enact are inured habits. We know they don’t make us particularly happy or fulfilled, but few actions and behaviors are actually done with a high degree of conscientiousness. Most are the result of autopilot.
The amount of self-awareness required to notice, let alone break these habits, or simply refrain, is a bit more rare than we’d like. Or rather, the instances of self-awareness can be rare in our experience.
Even something like loneliness can become a bad habit. We’ve all had quite an experiment the last couple years with vastly different patterns and routines of socialization. Personally, I was surprised how much people suffered from the isolation, and I learned that my own talent for solitude isn’t something I’m imagining. I’ve further realized that I’d likely be an excellent for deep-space missions as I can be quite happy and content with no human contact while living in a small space, on the condition that I have some project to work on. It’s difficult for me to imagine that this capability doesn’t exist within everyone, but as with all inclinations, such things come easier to some and not others.
But as much value as can be gleaned from solitude - it too can perhaps become a bad habit. The simple fact is that time is gliding by without any hesitancy, and given that we’re likely only here for a finite amount of time, it becomes an important question as to just how much that time should be spent alone - especially for someone who enjoys solitude, or someone who has made a bad habit of loneliness. I phrase it this way because it’s a bit of a weird idea that someone would be lonely in this day and age. There are so many ways to connect with people, and there are plenty of places to go and expand the surface area of chance when it comes to meeting someone. And yet people can remain horribly alone. Could it be due to something as mundane as habit? Certainly.
Breaking out of one’s own shell and reaching out to others is difficult - in fact, it’s difficult in very much the same way breaking a bad habit is difficult. And this is where self-awareness rises as the key. Being self-conscious is perhaps the negative version of self-awareness, generating fear and helping to maintain a bad habit of loneliness. Think about the twin stresses of dating and finding a job. They are oddly similar problems that can evoke very similar emotional responses. Why? Because they both entail an excellent braid of both self-examination and new behavior. Loneliness is the default. This is despite the fact that we constantly crave novel experiences. The caveat that holds it together is that by default we don’t crave novel selves. And why would we? A change in the self is a threat to the current self. It makes sense that even something as ethereal as a perspective, a mentality and a belief would fight for survival, and therefore generate fear within a person to ensure the probability of change is lowered.
Get busy living, or get busy dying. Unfortunately there’s no middle ground. We sink or fly. Like the stock market. Perhaps a healthy solitude can create a safe plateau, but at the end of the day, time is still running out. Even someone who sincerely believes that their variety of solitude is healthy must question themselves and wonder if perhaps they’ve simply built a habit of loneliness.