To Willing Conflators Of Henry David Thoreau And Jeremy Todd (one hundred and fifty eighth letter)

Dear Friends,

 

However intense my experience, I am conscious of the presence and criticism of a part of me, which, as it were, is not a part of me, but spectator, sharing no experience, but taking note of it, and that is no more I than it is you.

When the play, it may be the tragedy, of life is over, the spectator goes her way. It was a kind of fiction, a work of the imagination only, so far as she was concerned. This doubleness may easily make us poor neighbors and friends sometimes.
I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go out on the town than when we stay at home. People thinking or working are alone. Let them be where they are.
Solitude is not measured by distance. A diligent student grafted to his laptop is as solitary as a dervish in the desert. The painter can work alone all day and not feel lonesome because she is employed; but at night she cannot sit down in a room alone, at the mercy of her thoughts, but must be with others to, as she sees it, remunerate herself for her day’s solitude.
She wonders how the student can sit alone in his dorm all night and most of the day without ennui; but she does not realize that the student, though in the dorm, is still at work in his studio, and filling in his canvas with colours and shapes, as the painter in hers, and in turn seeks the same recreation and society that the latter does, though it may be a more condensed form of it.
Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals or for a coffee, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are.
We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war. We meet at the bar, and at the park, and about the TV most nights; we live thick and are in each other’s way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another.
Certainly less frequency would suffice for all important and hearty communications. Consider the girls in a factory — never alone, hardly in their dreams. It would be better if there were but one inhabitant to a square mile, as where I live. The value of a person is not in their skin, that we should touch them.

 

I shall write to you some more about being alone shortly.

jeremy