People who need people are vapid. Those who cannot tolerate a day or so alone with their thoughts are madmen who will one day die without having ever reflected upon their lives in a meaningful way. Like a female gorilla or a river red gum.
A native anchorite, I am the opposite. I need occasional interaction with other members of my species in order to feel grounded and sane, but too much of it is exhausting. I have had periods of some months where I could choose exactly how much to go out and socialise. I found that my sweet spot is for a few hours, once or twice a week. My friends are exasperated when I pike at 11pm but that’s just how I am. The rest of the time I am happiest alone, reading or working on my own projects. I used to think this was a bizarre quirk of my nature but I’ve since read that this preference is common for introverts, who make up a large proportion of the population.
There have been cases when I have been traveling with friends or partners when I became irritable and listless after a few days of constant interaction. My warm feelings towards my companion would turn to cold hatred for reasons I could not, at the time, fully comprehend. The solution seemed to be getting away for a while. Previously, a day trip on my own would do the trick. As I have aged I have become more and more introverted and this would not be nearly enough time. Even a weekend away with a girlfriend can edge me into murderous rage, and I avoid such trips for that reason.
Similarly, the time that I can happily spend alone has increased. I used to go mad when I lived in rural Japan, starved as I was for native-speaking conversation. Now I hear about miners trapped underground for weeks on end as they await rescue and I think, so long as I had a book that would be heaven.
I like people more when I’m not around them, both individually and collectively. If I spend too long with the same person, be they however pleasant, I will notice and exaggerate all their flaws and they will become intolerable to me. If I have to spend time around numerous people without break I will quickly develop a strong animosity towards the entire human race and begin plotting frighteningly plausible methods for causing their extinction. At the very least I will fail to properly separate my rubbish.
I much prefer to travel alone. Sometimes I will visit an historic site of interest to no one else. Sometimes I will spend a whole day in a cafe writing or reading a book. I have fond memories of camping alone in some remote location, feeling oneness with the universe above and the creeping bugs below. Reading philosophy in that in-between place, pausing after each page to gaze and consider and wonder. To experience eudaimonia.
Why is extended time in other people’s company so wearisome? I think it is because other people place intolerable demands upon me. They talk to me and want me to answer. They want appropriate answers. They want me to express the correct emotions and speak in the right tone of voice and sit up straight and not blow my nose or scratch my balls while they’re talking at me. For example, a client will tell me about how her son converted to Jainism. I need to look at her when she talks, nod after assertions for which she requires approval and occasionally say, ‘Oh, I see,’ and ‘Really? I didn’t know that’, when what I want to say is, ‘I’m surprised to hear that you have a son because I can’t picture anybody ever copulating with you.’ My face must obey social rules just a surely as my mouth. I nod and smile and look concerned when she gets to the bit about the negative reactions from her extended family. My face wants to look bored and I have to fight it. And I need to rearrange my genitals because they have become uncomfortably cramped in my pants but society insists that I don’t touch that area because it might look like masturbation. I twist uncomfortably and it does nothing. She takes my squirming for an indication of forbidden tedium and frowns in disapproval. I’m just a performing bear riding a unicycle out of desire for berries and fear of the whip. What I really want to do is gore people and snuffle around in the dirt.
On my own I am at peace. I can think (or write) any unspeakable thing I like and none of you bastards can do a thing about it. Excuse me. I can stroll around naked so long as I close the curtains. Or I can wear an old jacket that makes me look homeless. I have things to do but these are mostly tasks that I have set for myself. I am sometimes surprised by my own discipline. I once spent every Saturday for a year writing a novel. It was of poor quality but I finished that bloody thing. Fifty thousand words.
I get the energy and inspiration for such projects from my solitary life. My plan for freedom is intended to reduce (but not eliminate) the amount of time I spend around other people and to increase my time alone. I feel excited at the prospect.
I wonder if I will continue to become a greater hermit as I age. Obviously there’s a sweet spot beyond which life would become unmanageable. I will need to engage in some human contact in order to maintain my social skills and to mate.
Today I had the whole day to myself. I read, cleaned the house and have almost completed five pomodoros of writing. I feel rejuvenated and I’m raring to go out tonight and have fun. For a while.
Further reading: Why I Am Not Married