A student’s thoughts on being alone

Posted: August 19, 2012 in prison, general, prisoner writing, teaching, writing
Tags: , , ,

One of my students struggles to be inspired by most of the class exercises we give. He’s a self-proclaimed free form free thinker and prefers inspired free writes that allow him to compose more spontaneous, less directed poems, prose poems, short essays, etc. Our theory as teachers (as much as we want all our students to follow along with the class and do their assigned homework) is: whatever keeps you writing. So, I’ve started providing E- with first lines from poems. He takes those back to his cell, writes and brings them back to me the next class. This first line comes from Tracy K. Smiths poem “My God, It’s Full of Stars” from her collection Life on Mars. I found what E- wrote intriguing. If any reader wants to leave a comment for me to take back to him, please do. He loves spirited debate, differing opinions and smart conversation around the complexity of being human.


“Perhaps the great error is believing we’re alone.”

Or is it?

Everyone has secrets that they can’t stand the thought of being exposed. Protecting those secrets can isolate someone, and regardless if another can be trusted, the secret will never feel safe. Trust has a lot to do with not feeling secure with being vulnerable. Personally, I don’t want to play with the idea of “giving away” because I’m afraid. I’ve offered intimate parts of my mind and spirit and when the recipient sprinted from their promises I felt stolen. The best company I can find are the teachings of being alone.

Alone is something that should be embraced. It is the process of discovering and relying on oneself. Getting space away from the rest of the world and gaining perspective on what is running across your mind. It’s like driving on an ocean breeze and the sky is turning the most relaxing colors, the seconds are a hour long.

I understand that strong connections can be comforting and supportive, but in my experience it still feels external. You can be open as a timeless river, but who is willing to swim in the naked truth without knowing how far they have to go to share in your aloneness running down the middle?

I know there are people who share or disagree with my point of view. My opinion is free for you to do with what you will. I’m not intimidated by honesty. In fact, I encourage you to examine and challenge your own opinion. My opinion is real to me because I live my life in my mind. Privacy is valuable and I feel crowded and intruded on when my layers are peeled back.

“Perhaps the great error is believing we are alone.”

My response is we are never not alone, and that to me is the greatest asset.

  1. Estela Gonzalez says:

    Thank you for this comment, E. What you say resonates with me because I often think we are all alone–as long as we have no one to share our experience with. Thanks for sharing your experience and making those of us who read your work less alone.

  2. Catana says:

    In a sense, we’re never really alone because we’ve absorbed a lifetime of experiences. Maybe those who are uncomfortable being alone have never looked inside. There is nothing emptier than the space that surrounds the earth, but yes, it’s full of stars.

  3. Benito says:

    Yes, some of what E- says is true. There are secrets we wish not to share with others and there is value to being alone with ones thoughts. However, “trust” has nothing to do with not feeling secure and vulnerable. It is “secrets” that we keep that serve primarily to avoid feeling insecure and vulnerable. Trust is about placing faith in others. The two are not interchangeable terms.

    Of course everyone has secrets. But secrets do not prevent trust or isolate someone, unless we feel the secret is so horrible, that if the secret were known others would find us unacceptable. That is a personal viewpoint, not a required reality. Many people have horrible secrets and yet live comfortably with others.

    The greatest happiness will never be found being “alone”. One may find comfort. One may find solitude or even a certain peace by oneself, but true happiness, joy and excitement in just living can never be achieved without a strong connection to someone else. Obviously people who are hurt by life, people damaged by an inability to deal with the problems created by others, by the violation of their trust may well retreat to a spot by themselves and relish the comfort gained by the absence of any further interaction. They may even trumpet the virtues and relish the peace and solitude of being one with themselves. However, there is nothing to compare, nothing that even comes close by comparison to the happiness, joy and pure pleasure of living that results from a love that is only possible in the presence of someone else to whom you have a close, intimate connection.

    The issue isn’t that someone violated one’s trust, exposed ones secret or hurt them in an indescribable way. Those things happen every day to countless people all over the world. The issue is whether we can understand why a person, perhaps someone we trusted did that. We need to talk about it. We need to discuss it. We need to ask them. We need to learn from those experiences and move on with our lives. Without that understanding of why things happened, we don’t feel comfortable the problem will not be repeated, the same mistake will not be made again and the same painful agony will not be endured by us in the future. Retreating to be alone addresses the problem of trust (we trust no one) but it doesn’t solve the problem of “understanding” and ultimately a willingness and confidence to “try again” so we can find true happiness and joy in our lives.

    Do you know why you have emotions? Do you think it is to torment your mind? If not, why are we tormented so much by our emotions? Why do people endlessly discuss fear, hatred, love, envy, anger, trust, etc? Why do books so often focus on human emotions and authors become endlessly involved with character motives based on the emotions of their characters? Surly emotions must be an important part of who we are, but why do they exist? There are both scientific and spiritual reasons used to explain emotions. Understanding the function of emotions makes it more obvious why one needs to understand emotional conflict instead of seeking ways to avoid facing it. That is what being alone is truly about — escaping, not understand. It is about avoiding, not coming to terms with oneself. It may work, but that doesn’t mean it is the best solution, only that it is a “possible” solution.

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