Monday, April 29, 2013

To Be Alone

Mount Claywood in Olympic National Park is one of the lesser peaks in the Olympic range. Claywood stands at 6836' with his sister peak, Mt. Fromme 6706', connected by a knife edge ridge. It is not that impressive of a mountain. The approach is relatively simple following the trail leading to Hayden Pass. A short off trail jaunt above the tree line allows you access to an easy class three climb up both peaks. It was almost a year ago, last May, that I climbed Mt. Claywood for my first trip into the alpine on a nine day solo trip. The lessons learned, the insight gained, proved to be as great as Chiron's education, greater than the summit itself. The value of being alone was one of the lessons I learned.

 They say solitude is a state that is much sought after but once achieved is its own burden. Admittedly, until just recently, I was afraid of it. In Olympic, on day seven, I remember sitting on a fallen tree (that was maybe as old as this country)crying my eyes out over being alone. Imagine its all gone. The whole infrastructure. A place where the signal doesn't reach. A place deep in the wilds. A place where, if you want to share something, you have to reconcile the fact that the only one there is yourself and a rock.

 Loneliness is an emotion rarely confronted, in its most basic form, in this world dominated by media and social connection. Developing yourself into a unique human being in a city of millions produces it's own constraints on one's psyche. Metropolitan areas offer countless ways to interact socially; even if you lock yourself into your apartment, there is an outlet to people. Social interaction is just as simple as a text/call/blog post/email away if you should find yourself alone. It should be of no surprise that the simple fact that you are entirely alone is, in some ways, terrifying to most in this society. How do we deal with these limitations?

 We deal with these limitations through purpose. It is possible to overcome the psychological barriers presented by loneliness through having an overall goal. Perusing a purpose to overcome loneliness has its own preconditions and limitations though. Inherently, your purpose would have to be a personal goal. A goal no one could help you with. If you possess a desire to accomplish something that can only be done alone there is a great treasure to be found though. You will suffer, surely,  but what you learn in the end is the greatest of gifts. You learn to be self sufficient. You learn, how to be yourself.

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