Are we alone in the universe?

My post a few days ago about the nature of “need” has continued to spin around in my head, mainly because of the questions it raised (and has always raised) for me about the nature of our connections to one another. The attraction to, and fear of, being alone, the dialogue and tension between that fear and that attraction, has been a constant theme of my life. I even used it to title one of my previous blogs that I have since abandoned. But I’m still not sure what I mean when I use the word “alone.”

Despite the fact that I come from a family of five boys, and that I had the usual childhood friendships, images of myself in solitude dominate my memories of growing up. I picture myself reading a book at night, under my bed covers, with a flashlight, or sometimes–if it was really late and I was sure everyone else was asleep–taking a pillow and blanket to the bathroom and huddling in the cool white porcelain of the tub as I made my way through “Treasure Island” or “White Fang.” I recall weekends or summer days when I would take a golden delicious apple or two, and spending the day wandering through the jungles where we lived when my father was stationed in Central America, or following the track of a creek bed on a fall or winter day in Kansas. Or more recently, I can conjure from my experience the feel of my feet propelling me along a dirt road or jogging path on a long run, accompanied only by the sound of my breathing, the wind, the crunch of the gravel or slap of the pavement under my shoes. Those are some of the richest memories of my life.

At the same time, I have always been afraid that I would never find someone who could truly share my internal life, thoughts, and world. During my childhood, I didn’t feel that I could talk about the turmoil of my parents’ chaotic marriage and my feelings about it. In adulthood, the fear has had more to do with finding someone willing to listen to the torrent of words and thoughts and impressions that can spill from me in a (I have been told more than once) dizzying and overwhelming way. Though I have always loved a measure of solitude, I’ve also always wanted–or felt I needed–someone who could take me whole, who would not only tolerate but accept me, hyper-text mind and all.

So lately, I have wondered how realistic an expectation that is. It occurs to me that I am–perhaps we each are–essentially alone. A complete sharing of my experiences and feelings and sensations will never take place. At some level, I will never be known inside out by another human being. Perhaps only god alone–whomever or whatever she may be–is the only one capable of cracking that shell of solitude. But maybe I can be accepted. Of course, it can be difficult to know if I’m really accepted given that no one will ever know all there is to know about me. And this is, I think, ultimately the dilemma. I suppose what I really fear is not so much being alone as being unknown, or finally being known and being rejected.

But at the end of the day, what choice do we have other than to risk being ourselves? So I’m trying to learn to live with a certain, inevitable level of aloneness and to be grateful for the acceptance that I have found from those who love me.


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