I know who I am, part two

FRIDAY, 28 MAY 2004

People who think I like being alone should have their minds read. But what alternative is there for a person for whom being alone is a daily reality but to confirm his value as an individual according to his own standards?

This person will try to establish his value as an individual in a society where membership in a group is one of the most prestigious awards that an individual can claim for himself.

To be one member of an intimate two-member group is however held in particularly high esteem since it implies inter alia that each of the two members is sexually attractive to at least one person. This in turn influences the esteem of these two members in the larger social group in which they move, and also in the wider community, for sexual attractiveness (and the accompanying satisfaction of another person’s need for pleasure) is one of the main factors that determine an individual’s value in the world we live in – the other being financial or economic prowess.

If you are not a valued member of a social group, and your sexual attraction is not of such a nature that people desire physical communion with you (in ways that are clear to other people), there remains but a single possible label for your person: SINGLE-LONER. (If, however, as SINGLE-LONER, you possess visible financial prowess, you will surely attract people who desire the delightful benefits your financial status entails.)

Being a SINGLE-LONER, especially one without visible financial prowess, is naturally not as enjoyable as being with another person. It also has absolutely no calming effect on any existential anxiety you might experience. It is also a condition that occasionally leads to nasty attacks on your dignity, that once again emphasize your consciousness of differentness, which diminishes your chances even further of being taken seriously in any social context.

What should one do? Jump in front of a train? Bore other people endlessly with your self-pity? What you do, is you confirm your value according to your own standards that will sometimes be in conflict with the standards of the community that view loners with suspicion and that encourage membership to social groups. A critical view of some of the community’s standards is therefore to be expected.

By the way, for whom do I make these notes? The mere possibility that it is just for myself is unbearable.

And I know where this latest piece of social criticism is coming from: It feels bad to be alone, so now I weave a whip out words with which I can punish the community (or a whip that I can crack a safe distance from the nearest picnic table – I don’t want to completely ruin any chances of some communion with other people).

I am not taking back a single word of what I said in the preceding paragraphs, but it is once again important for the sake of intellectual honesty to admit that I know what is fueling my criticism.

I am in a difficult situation. The gap between how I see myself and how the “community” views me – as manifested in the reactions of people on what I am doing with my life and on the utterances I sometimes can’t help making in polite conversation – is becoming increasingly unbridgeable.

Two possibilities: a) I have to get the recognition from the community that I believe I deserve, or b) I will continue to treat the community with increasingly vicious contempt. (It must necessarily be so – if “they” are not with me, then I am against them. And the insane asylum or the prison creeps ever closer …)

Do I hold the community responsible for my loneliness? No. I am already guilty of cynicism; I cannot afford to be stupid as well.


But as you sometimes beat the grass to startle a snake, I believe my own lack of regular intimate contact and my isolation from the community is the medium through which I gain certain insights into the position of the individual in society. The bitterness with which I sometimes write merely confirms that it is not just an interesting subject that I approach with the objectivity of an academic. I know what I am talking about.

Again, I can declare that I know who I am. Again I can ask of people who avoid time on their own as much as possible if they know who they are – apart from the combination of imitations they employ to successfully function within a particular social community.

I can also declare that who I am is not always good, and certainly not always pleasant. One also sometimes wonders what is so good about extensive self-knowledge if the result of this is that you spend your days and nights alone …