Sunday, 9 March 2008

"Autophobia - not the fear of motorcars."

“There the gunslinger sat, his face turned up into the fading light... and he was lonely but did not find loneliness in any way a bad or ignoble thing.”

So ends ‘The Gunslinger’ by Stephen King, describing Roland Deschain, a perfect example if there ever were one of a Jungian archetype; the lonely hero. There are countless hundreds of examples throughout literature and mythology of the courageous hero who must perform an act of self-sacrifice in venturing on his/her quest entirely alone. Dr. Who, Superman, King Arthur, Zarathustra, Odysseus, Beowulf, Gandalf, Sherlock Holmes, Yoda. These characters walk their paths on their own; maybe they have companions but they never truly touch anyone. These are the lonely heroes, the great human characters fated to noble loneliness.

And yet, in today’s society a stigma floats around those who are alone, even if they are happy to be so. It’s viewed as perhaps a little strange or sad to eat alone and those who cannot or don’t want to find a life-partner are viewed as social misanthropes, not obeying the norms of general society. Why would this be? Why would we glorify the noble lonely hero and yet in reality cast aside those individuals who are content in their solitude?

Someone from my past once told me that even when I sit alone, I don’t seem lonely. Human beings need solitude, a factor of a contented life which is forgotten in today’s world where we cram people together in a house for entertainment. Nowadays people need the TV on in the background, the radio for ‘companionship’, the flux of inner-city nightclubs just to stave off encroaching loneliness. But in reality there is nothing to fear from being alone. In solitude, one is able to discover oneself and even reach truths about the universe which other people disguise. Jesus of Nazareth accepted his destiny alone in the garden. Siddhārtha Gautama discovered enlightenment alone beneath the Bodhi tree. Moses went up Mt. Sinai on his own (and got high, if the latest research is to be believed).

On the other hand, no man is an island. I merely advocate ridding the world of this collective fear of loneliness and encouraging people to occasionally embrace solitude in order to better themselves.