Thursday, March 21, 2013

Gregarious by nature

We're a gregarious species and want to be with others, especially at certain times. When in labor. When hearing a grim diagnosis from a doctor. During a heart attack. At the moment of death. Encountering a grizzly. When fighting hypothermia.

We want companionship during less dramatic moments, too, like when we celebrate accomplishments or count desert stars on a summer night. But, whoa! We start equating alone with bad. The desire to be with others pushes aside another natural yearning—to find solitude.

We believe, for instance, that people should not be alone on holidays, so generous people try to include others in their celebrations. We can hardly imagine that a stressed person may prefer to sleep till noon on a day off, stay in pajamas, and eat a frozen dinner.

Our uneasiness with silence keeps us connected to radios and headphones. We lose our ability to enjoy a purple and orange sunset if we are by ourselves. In its extreme form, people become terrified of being alone.

In crowded places in the world, finding space apart is difficult. Here in the American West, it doesn't take us long to find an isolated spot where we can hike, think, and pray. Time after time, I find that when I give solitude the same respect that I give togetherness, I'm rewarded with a renewed spirit.   

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