John Brock: Have we lost the art of being alone with ourselves in perfect solitude?

  • Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Finally! The elections are over and once again we are delivered from the barrage of television and radio advertising blather from all sides. We can finally answer our ringing telephone and not be plagued with a Robo-call for a candidate or cause. Or, go to the mailbox and not unload a host of “messages” from candidates. Our ears, eyes and minds are once again left in peace with nothing to contemplate except how we are going to get out of this mess that run-away government spending has created.

The cacophony of political talk and opinions that has battered our minds of late reminded me of the days of my youth when solitude was possible. I am not certain that temporary seclusion is available in today's wired world.

Once upon a time it was possible for an individual to retreat from the world for a few moments or hours and just be alone with personal thoughts. Not so today!

Most folks, it seems, just cannot be content with silence away from the noises of civilization and electronic intrusion. I wonder sometimes if kids and young adults are even aware of what personal solitude is all about.

Radio and television were the first constant culprits robbing us of private moments alone with just our thoughts and aspirations. Today, however, we are constantly tethered to computers and cell phones. All of which take various forms: Smart phones, iPads, Kindles, etc. I don't even know what some of them are — and I intend to keep it that way.

I remember the days of yore when I was a kid growing up with huge areas of forest surrounding our house. It was a place where I could escape from humanity for a few moments or hours and just be alone with the natural world and my own thoughts. These moments remain the highlights of my maturing years. I miss them.

Today, however, it's even hard from an aging person like me to escape the technical universe. The one or two television stations that were available in my younger years have grown to literally hundreds of channels available for the waste of one's time. I know folks who come in from a day of real life experiences and immediately turn on the television set (or sets) just for the feeling of connection to the world. They then retreat to the computer to slate their hunger of connectiveness. If that is not enough there is always the cell phone and the wonders of creation that it provides. There they can find the old-fashioned voice communication but we now have texting, twitter, tweet and who knows what else at their disposal. It seems that cell phones can do just about anything today except give birth. And if all of this were not enough it is now possible to take and transmit photos and videos in real time. There is no privacy anymore!

As a last resort to escape reality, kids (of all ages) can plug into “video games” instead of tasting the actual world. They live in a make-believe universe. I am reminded of the cartoon in which a young boy is taking in the expansive views on the rim of the Grand Canyon. He turns to his father and says, “Wouldn't this look great in 3-D, High Definition video?” Today, there are many avenues to rob us of our once cherished solitude in the realm of reality. How sad.

I am so sorry that young folks cannot know the joy of just being alone while enjoying the actual world. It was life-changing for me as a lad to walk into the forest with just my old dog for company. It was exhilarating to sit quietly beneath an old tree and inhale the fragrance of God's wonderful world. After a few moments of inhaling the sights and smells of the woods, the whole environment came alive with the sounds of the natural world: birds twittering (in the prehistoric connotation of the term,) the squirrels squalling, the bugs and beetles humming. I could calmly contemplate my own life and aspirations. I was content — and happy. It was always an inspiring experience.

After an hour or so of sitting and walking, my old dog and I would be ready to rejoin what was the real world back then — a life with family, community and communicating in real conversation and not via some electronic connection.

Those times without constant and immediate communications fostered a kinder, gentler life. I cannot help but believe that the universal electronic connection of today's society is responsible for much of the baser elements of life. We didn't shoot our teachers or classmates if they offended us, we didn't massacre other folks because they didn't belong to our gang; we thought marijuana was a Mexican singer. And we didn't expose our private lives through world-wide electronic media in such practices as “Sexting.” And very importantly, we weren't moment by moment exposed to what was considered illicit sex in a day not too long ago. No wonder teen pregnancy continues to be rampant.

Where will it all lead? Heavens, I don't know but I just remain thankful for my youthful opportunities to live in the real world and not have my life dominated by a make-believe electronic existence.


John Brock is a retired college professor and newspaper editor/publisher who lives in Georgetown County and can be reached by mail at this newspaper or via Email at: brock@johnbrock.com.

Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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