November 27, 2015

A Certain Isolation

I like being at home, and it has always been that way. It makes it very handy now that I am a full time caregiver.

It always amazes me that people spend insane amounts of money on a house, then work hard to get away from it. From going out to to going shopping to going on vacation, there is always going, going, going, and not so much staying, relaxing and enjoying.

I guess go is the thing to do, and I am part of a minority of people that sees the beauty in maintaining and enjoying a home-based lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, reducing the amount of going and increasing the amount of staying has benefits.

Sticking close to home certainly saves money, since just about any going out will require spending money. But saving money is not the most important benefit.

The biggest payoff of pulling back from the speed of a fully plugged in modern lifestyle is what it can do for your spirit. Philosopher and social critic Søren Kierkegaard wrote about the individual vs. the crowd, why we conform, and the power of the minority.

"One can very well eat lettuce before its heart has been formed; still, the delicate crispness of the heart and its lovely frizz are something altogether different from the leaves. It is the same in the world of the spirit.  
Being too busy has this result: that an individual very, very rarely is permitted to form a heart; on the other hand, the thinker, the poet, or the religious personality who actually has formed his heart, will never be popular, not because they are difficult, but because they demand quiet and prolonged working with oneself and intimate knowledge of oneself, as well as a certain isolation." 

Things like Black Friday don't motivate Linda and I to leave our home. But that doesn't mean we live in total isolation all the time. We have wonderful neighbours close by, and we enjoy our infrequent trips into town to conduct business.

We live in an interconnected universe, so it is impossible do anything in complete isolation. What we do at home, and in our heads, has far-reaching effects. A butterfly flapping its wings affects the weather on the other side of the globe - imagine what our minds can do.

Christopher Alexander is an unconventional architect who has started a movement to help regular people reclaim control over their built environments. What he has to say about creating beautiful buildings that improve life can be related to building a beautiful home life.

"This is a fundamental view of the world. It says that when you build a thing you cannot merely build that thing in isolation, but must repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at that one place becomes more coherent, and more whole; and the thing which you make takes its place in the web of nature, as you make it."

There is nothing inherently wrong with going out. We are social creatures. But perhaps a certain isolation would help restore some balance. Slowing down and enjoying a full, uninterrupted home life can save money and make life more meaningful.

When we make our homes and our selves more coherent and whole, we take our place in nature and improve the world at the same time.


  1. I spend a lot of time at home. It certainly is a cheaper way to live. There are many aspects of staying home I enjoy, but it gets lonely though. I have moderate social needs and live alone. So I get out a bit more than I would if there were another person living here.

    1. If it weren't for Linda I might get lonely. I should probably socialize more than I do, but I have always been content to be alone, or have one good friend. It is good to bounce ideas off other people, and it is important to be part of your community. It is something with which I struggle.

    2. I think we all have different levels of social needs. Your social needs may be minimal compared to someone else's. I wouldn't try and force something that doesn't feel natural.

      I'm reminded of several theories about human needs; all of which you are no doubt familiar with given your psychology background. (1) Abraham Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, (2) Introvert vs Extrovert and (3) Primal Needs are ones that resonate with me.

      An introverted person is recharged by being alone. And extroverted person is recharged by being with people. It varies from person to person how introverted they are or how extroverted they are. A common fallacy is that introverts are shy. That's not true at all. Though they can be both introvert and shy, some introverts are not shy.

      I tend to be a little more introvert than extrovert. I am not fully replenished/recharged by being alone until I have a little social interaction especially if I've been home alone for days and days. I like a small circle of close friends.

      Of course, there are many different ways to meet human needs. Perhaps your social needs are being met with Linda, this blog and from interactions in town occasionally.

      Yes, agreed, it is important to be a part of your community; it meant life or death to our ancestors. We've evolved. We can survive with less community or different kinds of community. Maybe NBA is your community. For someone else community is more physically interacting with people. There are many ways to be a part of community.

      Bouncing things off other people is like oxygen to me (that's the twinge of extrovert in me). It is enormously helpful and fueling to me. I think the need for this varies from person to person.

      When I hear that it is a struggle to socialize, I'm thinking don't push it especially when I hear you are content with being alone.

      I've often thought of Dick Proenneke when thinking of you and Linda. He is the man from Iowa who lived Alone in the Wilderness in Alaska for 30 years. He had very little interaction with people and was content. I can see you and Linda being perfectly content living isolated like he did or some modification of it. He was an amazing human being. I watched every single one of his videos on You Tube with great intrigue.

      As you know I traveled from Georgia to Alaska, lived in a van with my 7 year old daughter in-tow for a summer. The greatest lesson I learned about myself on that trip is I absolutely can not live remotely, cut off from people like that.

      You and Linda have surely figured what your needs are more than most have. You've done what you can to meet those needs and are content. Perhaps there is no need to struggle to make ourselves do anything else.

      I'm sure you know what I've been rambling about.

  2. Anonymous11/29/2015

    I completely agree. I read a paragraph in Proust that describes it best where he says the pleasures of society and conversation:

    "would have had to be of a very exciting quality for my inner life to awaken during those hours in which I lived on the surface, my hair well-brushed, my shirt-front starched, in which, that is to say, I could feel nothing of what constituted for me the pleasures of life"

    This doesn't mean total isolation, but it does mean there are lots of pleasures in life that you need to be quiet and solitary to experience. A very neat link between this and living a not buying anything lifestyle too, I think you're right. Thanks again!

    Clara (Australia)

    1. Clara,

      I have always been drawn to quiet, solitary experiences, often in nature. Great quote that fits nicely with this post - thanks for sharing.

  3. Clara, thank you for bringing up Proust. I just read his questionnaire on wikipedia. What thoughtful questions. Gives me pause.

  4. After thought. The Proust questionnaire kind of reminds me of "Story Corps," sharing and preserving the stories of our lives. Here is the story from the founder.

    1. I like "Listening Is An Act of Love". Thanks for the interesting link, Terri.


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