Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Experts say that solitary confinement can lead to hallucinations, severe anxiety, memory loss and ultimately that clinical state known as "crazy". It is a punishment; something forced upon a prisoner. In contrast, choosing to be by yourself is usually temporary and easily remedied. Many people in the U.S., even those who have families, spend more time alone than people in other parts of the world.

This past weekend I visited with a friend whose family is from the Caribbean. The house was spacious, yet every day relatives either came out of their rooms or drove from across town to cram into the kitchen and shoot the breeze.

So today I took a moment to look up from the book I was reading to see something interesting in the lunchroom at the course I am attending this week.

There was only one person sitting at each table.

It stayed like this for a while. Each of us in our own universe. I am not criticizing since I was a willing participant in this system. One person came in and spoke to another, but it was a brief conversation. Two women who obviously wanted a table to themselves so they could create their own universe entered, but when they could find nowhere to sit,they left.

There is nothing wrong with sitting by yourself. It was just interesting to look up and see that each person in the room had chosen to do so. Seemingly, every table was full, although there was only one person there. One person with food, or a book, or some knitting.

Finally, four courageous people came in and sat at a table in the center with one of the lone planets. These people spent the rest of the lunchtime engaging in a lively conversation. They were the center of our universe; the rest of us orbited around them silently.

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