html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: I can't help. There are too many.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I can't help. There are too many.

I liked Slate's Magnum photo collection on solitude. I maybe shouldn't have clicked through their images of solitude. Seeing lonely people goes straight to the softest parts of me. I'm not worried about me, actually. I have lots of tolerance for solitude and am usually very happy daydreaming something while I walk or eat alone. I am not so scared of solitude for women, whom I trust to be able to break out of it (perhaps wrongly). But seeing men who look lonely just stabs me. Are they going to be OK? They aren't, I don't think. I get scared they don't have the words or the ways to reach for the friends that they need so bad.


Blogger Dubin said...

The Russian bear! Oh, the Russian bear...

4:37 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I know. Oh god, the Russian Bear. I couldn't figure out a way to link to specific pictures, but the bear and the deep circular groove in the solitary confinement cell were awful.

I've seen those grooves before, in machines where horses walked in circles to push a shaft that turned a mill. But I hate thinking of humans (or horses, really) as engines.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous D said...

fear not, friend...
knowing that we have friends is enough.
knowing that were we to pick up the phone in time of need, it would bring the cavalry, is enough.
and in such times when loneliness rides your shoulder, knowing somebody somewhere worries over you, it is enough.
when we wish to talk, we talk. when we wish to be silent, we say nothing.

I think we are not as different as you think, but how can the heart not be warmed by such concern?

ps. right click on the image and select properties to get it's addy then use "<-a-href-=-"the web addy-"->what you want to call it<-/-a-> without the -dashes-

A Russian Bear

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you prefer riding your bike to driving a car?


5:20 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Well-composed pictures, but it's not necessarily the case that most of the people (or, you know, bears) actually lived in solitude. Many of them might have been ordinary people with families and friends who just happened to be alone when the pictures were taken.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

Being alone isn't necessarily the same as being lonely. Sometimes we need some solitude. The guy on the Buddhist statue was probably meditating, and maybe even went on vacation to see it.

Felt bad for the kid on the playground, though. Unless he was being punished with a time-out for beaning girls with the ball, you never know.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's notable is that not all of the photo's subjects are physically alone. Reminds me of the running (or, sneaker ad i guess) ad where there's a huge starting line crowd for a road race and all the faces are somewhat blurred, but for one young woman looking at the camera.

Sometimes you can feel most alone when surrounded by other people.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I wasn't worried about all of them. Mostly the bear. And that kid on the playground.

6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things: 1) photographers, like all journalists, have a vested interest in poking at your emotional core; 2) You may be underestimating men. We may (how would one tell?) have the same level of tolerance as women for being alone.

When I've had to spend a lot of time alone, lots of things got done. It's much harder to spend, say, 200 hours building a canoe, when there is another important person in the picture

A4, who is aware, in retrospect, that a solo canoe may not have been the best choice.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I don't guess at other people's tolerance levels for being alone. And I would be very happy to be wrong about this, but the fear that gets me emotional is that men who don't want to be alone are less able to break out of it than women are. I'm not pretending to have good back-up for this.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous joel hanes said...

Father MacKenzie
writing the words to a sermon
that no on will hear
No one comes near.

Look at him working
Darning his socks in the night
when there's nobody there ...

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"men who don't want to be alone are less able to break out of it than women are"

Is there a male equivalent to the "grateful pillow" that Esereth describes in such a heartbreaking fashion?

We share this affliction, both genders.


9:37 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Joel, I totally can't handle that part of the song.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the fear that gets me emotional is that men who don't want to be alone are less able to break out of it than women are. I'm not pretending to have good back-up for this."

I think you are right when it comes to this. Suicide-statistics corroborate this view: To be a bit simplistic, females _attempt_ suicide in order to get help, men just kill themselves.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous D said...

"but the fear that gets me emotional is that men who don't want to be alone are less able to break out of it than women are. I'm not pretending to have good back-up for this." - M

The fear that you fear is not without foundation, but to put a finer point on it... Men have a different kind of shorthand for communication with other guys... we don't necessarily talk a lot, in the way that women might. This is wholly different than not having the ability to communicate. We just do it differently. With guys I can walk in to any establishment with a TV with some kind of sports on it [for example] and make a comment to a complete stranger. The reply is a bond. There may or may not be more conversation, but I have been accepted. In such situations I have even been invited to stay, introduced all around, essentially become part of the tribe. For what amounts to very few words.

On the other hand, when we are lonely for female companionship, yes, that's different. There is no short hand there. It's a dice roll how they will act if you speak to them as a complete stranger, but it's usually defensive. Often you find no acceptance, unless you are introduced by an intermediary... and if you know a bridging person, than you probably already are not lonely, yes?

anyhow, the genders look at this quite differently I'd wager, but it's my guess that you're an intermediary Megan, because of your concern, and that's to the good...

7:52 AM  
Anonymous Nathan Zook said...

Men have been bred for a long time to tolerate solicitude. This shows in our culture. The mountain hermit is not generally pitied, the old maid is. For a couple hundred years, we had frontier hunters and trappers that would go for months no human contact. The Aussies have walkabouts. I believe some American Indian tribes had similar activities. Ever hear of a guy going to a quilting bee?

As has been mentioned, loneliness is independent of the presence of others. So is solicitude. My lone wolf eras were three, seven and three years long, starting when I was seven. (Ending when I met my wife.)

Bears are mostly solitary creatures. My irritation comes from his prison-like condition.

Speaking of prison, you don't end up in solitary by playing well with others. This man is a rule breaker even in jail, and his punishment is designed to convince him to change his ways--even in prison. As for the depth and breath of the track, don't assume that he created or maintained it by himself. We see such paths on playgrounds every day.

Finally, the school boy. I've been one version him. My daughters, especially my first, are the same way. We tend to observe before entering. Freaked my wife out the first time she noticed her doing it. My point, again, is that context is everything, and that the boy watching might not be excluded any meaningful sense.

6:54 AM  

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