Sunday, May 18, 2008

Seeking Solitude or Imposing Isolation?

“We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.”
Maya Angelou

Dictionaries don’t show much distinction between solitude and isolation. They both just mean being alone. However, when I think of solitude I think in terms of being alone by joyful choice and emotional necessity. Isolation evokes images of setting oneself apart from the world out of fear, anger, hate, sheer busyness or some other negative emotion.

While cruising down the road today I was impacted by a young woman walking across the street. She was yelling heatedly with arms flailing—to NO ONE. I instantly felt so sad for that poor mentally ill girl talking to the voices in her head. Then I realized she had one of those blue tooth phones hooked on her ear. She was alone, but not. I laughed at my mistake, but then it occurred to me how sad it really was.

Most of us live life at warp speed. We multi-task and use technology to get a maximum amount of stuff done each day. In doing so, we don’t have the need to connect with other humans as often. I frequently see people eating at restaurants with friends who aren’t present. They eat, laugh and chat on their tiny phones or send rapid-fire text messages, never looking up or making eye contact with another person nearby.

I know a young man who spends hours playing video games with his pals—and all of them are in different locations. Certainly they are challenged and entertained, but are they enriched or emotionally fulfilled by this experience?

Email is a wonderful tool. I use it constantly and it saves tremendous amounts of time. But recently I’ve received a couple of notes and cards via the US Postal Service and they’ve meant so much more to me than an Ecard. The phone is great for catching up and lends itself well to quick back-and-forth conversation. Tone of voice can reveal so much more than words on a page.

Still, in spite of all those great ways of communicating, I need to be with people. I am energized and replenished by looking into the eyes of those I love. I can tell immediately if a business associate is sincere by the expressions that cross her face. I sense pain or joy by the touch of a hand or a quick hug at church.

Discipline is required for me to impose solitude on myself to just be still; to listen to my own thoughts, clear my head and hear from God. That is precious and results in peace. Isolation, on the other hand is a product of more done faster. Peace is nowhere in the formula. What do you think? Can technology and camaraderie coexist? Is it possible to be truly fulfilled but also isolated? Where do you fit in this equation?
Diane Markins


Keri Wyatt Kent said...

thought provoking post, Dianne. I do so much communicating electronically these days, but I love having a face-to-face conversation.
Communication experts used to say that words made up only a very small percentage of our communication, that we said much more with tone of voice, body language, facial expression, and so on. could that be changing? if we take those parts of our message away, is it any wonder we feel isolated?

HisGirl said...

You raise an interesting point Keri. Have the "experts" redefined communication? Do they need to? I think from a strictly utilitarian perspective communication has been accomplished when a message has been issued, confirmed received and a reply has been delivered and confirmed. If that's where we leave it, we reduce ourselves to clinical beings.
I need emotion and physical interplay as part of my life. Maybe we'll have to sacrifice efficiency for quality in a portion of our communication process as technology continues to advance. Do you think it would be worth the cost of time?
Diane Markins

Anonymous said...

Diane, Let me add a different twist to isolation if I may. I see isolation setting in my husband as his hearing becomes worse and worse every day. I see isolation in the eyes of my friends autistic child since he does not understand the things being said to him. I see the possibility of isolation in the lives of 3 and 4 yr old children that do not know how to communicate because of the many hours they have spent in front of a television with no one talking with them.
I Thank my God every day for the discipline that he has given me also, to spend precious hours alone with him. And I pray that those who are being cast into a quiet world will know him...because solitude with him overcomes all fears, and oftentimes evils, of isolation.

And I so agree with the written word in via the mail! There is no greater communication than the Power of the Printed Word. I will send cards and write letters until I no longer can!