No Man Is an Island?

I realised the other day that I hadn’t said anything out loud for over two days.

I hadn’t verbally communicated with anybody for over 48 hours, an entire weekend. Thats quite long when you think about it.

I had spent the whole time occupying myself with distractions, often just finding a balance between the two competing impulses of making a mess or cleaning one up. But none of these messes involved anybody else, so I just hadn’t spoken.

But it startled me, this realisation. As soon as I was aware my immediate reaction was to talk out loud to myself (“Hey buddy, looking good! No seriously!”…). My next thought was whether I should frantically skype or call someone in desperate attempts to reconnect. My next thought after that was of Tom Hanks and Wilson – my eyes moved sheepishly to a tennis ball in the corner of my living room.

But then I sat down, looked out the window, had an honest moment with myself – where admittedly I felt a little sombre, then a little independent – and then I walked down the road and got an ice-cream.

The street was packed with people (typical busy Hong Kong street), but I still floated immaterially through the throng. Funny how in such an overpopulated – and over-connected – world we can still operate in complete isolation – and sometimes we don’t even notice. It can sneak up on us how little we have to actually engage with other people. I started to try and meet the eye of different people as I ghosted along, you know, manufacture some sort of exchange; other than inadvertently hailing two taxis I think I gave a lady standing outside a massage den the wrong impression. You can’t force it eh.

Stuff it. Its all good. Being alone is ok, right? Maybe any discomfort I felt was just some sort of cumulative external pressure – maybe I’m so used to seeing those glowing FB social postings of friendship-related bliss that I forget that we always get smacked with other people’s “The Best of Times”. I am actually pretty content with my own company on honest reflection. I get along pretty well with a guy with such similar interests.

I then started to think about how hard it was to show off outwardly that contentment one can gain from being alone – is it even possible to pull off fiercely independent and pensive selfies? Probably not…

I walked into the 7/eleven, chose my icecream, stood in line. I realised as long as I was rational enough to understand there are several external reasons that create “loneliness”, yet also several compelling benefits to actually being alone, everything would be all good. I can handle it. No man is an island – but rowing out to one for a day or two is probably a good idea every once in a while.

Hi there mate! Just the ice-cream – thanks! Nice one! See you soon!”

The guy behind the counter looked a little taken aback with the gusto of the exchange – he avoided making eye-contact and went back to his poorly hidden smartphone behind the till, while I strolled away, breaking my accidental silence. He barely even blinked, but why should he?

Then again, maybe he just hadn’t spoken to anyone for just as long as me ….

 

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