I recently came across this post on The Joys of Solitude by Philip Daoust in The Guardian. People who enjoy being alone or even prefer it to company may be thought of as odd and eccentric by those who are sympathetic. Others, more judgemental and fearful, view them as anti-social and potentially dangerous.
But surely people are not measured by the number of words that spill out of their mouths in their lifetime. Do we consider those who prattle on without end about the doings of the latest television reality show stars to be more socially acceptable? Or merely boring? Do you suspect those who tend to prefer silence of silently critiquing or cursing the rest of the social gathering? Plotting the downfall of the government?
Do you recall the poem by Max Ehrmann entitled Desiderata, or at least the first lines:
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
Some of Daoust's article seem to me to belabour the potential for living like a slob, eating out of cans and wearing pyjamas all day. He appears to commend the benefits of this way of life. Two of the individuals described as examples of solitude seekers had gone to great lengths to avoid any interaction with others. One lived on the Scottish moors with no means of communication and another on a deserted island off Chile. There is a middle ground.
Did humans become social to avoid becoming prey as anthropologists claim? We stuck together, not because we preferred constant company, but to avoid being eaten.
How did Henry David Thoreau spend two years alone in the Massachusetts woods? Was he a cranky misanthrope? It is possible to be alone in a crowd. Why do our screen savers show scenic vistas bereft of humans?
People seem to converse less as they age. Compare, for example, a classroom of twenty-five twelve year olds with lunch time at an extended care home. Are there a finite number of words we can express before we run out of things to say?