Honors English 10 2015-2016
“What sort of space is that which separates a man from his fellows and makes him solitary? I have found no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another.”
This is a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s famous book, Walden from a section on Solitude. The context of this quote is that people have been asking Thoreau whether or not he is lonely; his response is basically “why should I be lonely? I have the entire world to get to know; besides, being close to people do not make you less lonely than being alone.” This quote is his explanation that being alone does not make him lonely just as being with people does not make him less lonely.
To me, this quote rings very true, and it’s a concept I wish more people would understand. I feel much lonelier in a crowd of strangers than when I am actually alone in my own home. For me, being alone is actually a wonderful thing a lot of the time; I need my alone time, no matter how strange people might think I am for this need. I am not lonely, I do not hate people (I kind of do but that’s beside the point), I am just around people so much that I need a time to not be around people.
I can’t tell you how often my mom or someone will try to force me to have friends over or go do something social, and I just do not want to. I love my friends, I love hanging out with them, I like to do fun stuff with them, but I have my days where I just don’t want to interact with anyone. I know that most people get this way sometimes; for me, it’s just a little more often. The problem is, like Thoreau says, people assume you’re lonely just because you’re alone while in reality, surrounding yourself with people just makes you even more lonely.
When I’m alone, I feel like I can just do whatever, there are no expectations for me, if I get bored with something, or get tired and fall asleep that’s just fine. However, when I’m with people I’m constantly trying to make an impression and I can’t spontaneously change my plans if I decide I’d rather do something different. Especially in large groups of people, I also feel left out; people talk over me, ignore me, don’t understand me, argue with me, or whatever else, and it makes me feel bad about myself and even more alone in the world. The second part of this quote relates more to this feeling, “I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another.” In other words, no amount of effort put into relationships or physical proximity to other people can make you closer to them in your heart and mind, so you’re just as lonely as if you were alone.
For these reasons, I feel that I can relate to Henry David Thoreau’s thinking when he says “What sort of space is that which separates a man from his fellows and makes him solitary? I have found no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another.” As a society, we are too caught up in meaningless interactions with other people and think that just being with people makes us not alone or lonely. This simply isn’t true. I’ve heard it said before that being in a crowd of people is the loneliest place to be and I one hundred percent agree. Being alone is not the same as being lonely; some people really need to understand that.
I write these things.