How Easy It Is to Be Alone…

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.

Orson Welles

We all crave it and seek it, yet what really happens when we find what we are looking for and are alone, particularly if there are no Pringles in the house. I guess it provides opportunity to do all those jobs you don’t have time for, such as sitting down.

If you put a stethoscope to the wall of most family homes you might hear the echo of people pleading ‘Give me some space’, but what happens when you actually get it. When you have more time than you know what to do with? Being alone is a lonely business. I’ve avoided it for most of my life, and filled it with the conversation of characters in fictional situations far more interesting than my own, or stroking my vinyl record covers with the delicacy generally reserved for rare pedigree cats.

Being alone does strange things to people. We are not built for it. We are a social species, we congregate and we mill about; safety in numbers I guess. There’s too much time to think, and I’m pretty certain there’s a direct correlation between spending time alone, and belief that the moon landings are a hoax. Interestingly, it was Michael Collins who has been the loneliest man ever. He was the third astronaut in Apollo 11, and did not walk on the moon, he remained in the command module which drifted behind the moon cutting off his communication with Earth for 47 minutes of absolute silence – the furthest a man has ever been from earth. He wrote:

I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.

I’m sure Collins speaks for all writers staring at the blank page everywhere. I wonder if he had the more spiritual experience than the two men desperate not to fluff their lines as they touched down on the hereto untouched moon surface. In fact, it’s almost possible to feel sorry for the astronauts of Apollo 11, I mean I have recently had my second novel Unfinished Business published, which was rewarding, but it’s nothing compared to pressing a button to ignite 27 tonnes of rocket fuel per second under your seat. Unless I’ve been doing it wrong, I mean I sometimes write a good line, but I’m unsure it’s at that level of propulsion. Where can your life go after that? Even the invention of TV remote controls must have left the NASA astronauts cold. And I can’t believe a Honda Prius has quite the level of oomph Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were accustomed to.

Something that is clearly helping people be alone is their phones. Where people used to nervously shake a cigarette out and ask for a light, they now fiddle with their phones, which is a step up from that mistaken teenage idea that flicking open a Zippo lighter might make you more attractive to the opposite sex.

It’s not something we talk about. Being alone is seen as an important part of self-growth and even idealized, yet is so challenging we seldom do it unless it is forced upon us. And loneliness is a killer. Perhaps it’s time to suggest meditation apps on your phone; they aim to achieve a contentedness about solitariness, although I’ve just seen a cafe customer who failed to get the double-coffee shot they had explicitly asked for, and I’ve never seen anyone open up their mediation app so quickly. So I guess they must work.


This post was previously published on and is republished here with permission from the author.


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