Do you ever get the pricky-willies? That uncomfortable sensation like fresh cut hair in your shirt that both scratches and tickles at the same time? I get the pricky-willies when I see someone taking the time to walk alone by the lake but talking into a cellphone as they do. Some of the folks I witness doing this are regulars — walking up and down the lake every day talking to a disembodied voice inside a sleek glass cuboid Hershey bar.
I realize I am casting wild, unfounded projections all over the place. I love the sound of wind crawling like a whisper into the curve of my ears. When it is cold like it was this past sunny Sunday, an eighteen mile an hour wind slaps the face like a wet sheet snapping on a clothesline.
Besides the tactile sensations there are the colors, even in the dead of winter. Tungsten blue water against snow and ice, the swaying yellow-green of naked willow branches, brown grasses, and dark earth. In spring and summer of course, the lake canvass is a spray of green, blue, brown, and red hues. Add bugs, birds, fish, and groundhogs and we are talking about a symphony of sights, sounds, colors, and motions in three-hundred and sixty degree surround action. Maybe some folks can witness all of that while talking on a phone but it would severely handicap me.
They say loneliness is rampant in our society. While I read and understand the multitude of reasons for the crippling nature of loneliness being suffered, I think it is also true that we have forgotten how to be alone and so when we are, it is painful. Being alone and being lonely are of course, two different and not necessarily connected conditions. I say this as someone who is married and so may lack credibility, but as an extrovert I had to learn how to be alone without being lonely.
One of the things that happens when we are alone, especially for prolonged periods of time, is that we catch up with ourselves. That includes the thoughts, memories, and voices that we welcome as well as those we would rather shut the door on. It takes some work to figure out how to filter all that stuff so that we can regulate the flow inside, but there is no substitute for time alone to figure it out. The plethora of electronic devices just makes it too easy to avoid being alone. We pay a price for that.
Then again, the lake path is a great place for lovers, pals, and families. We may distract one another as we walk but the lake’s sweet natural milieu will wrap us in its magical healing powers. So I am not protesting sharing the lake as a social enterprise, rather, the use of electronic devices to keep us from feeling lonely.
There is so much unfounded and unwarranted baloney being served up about bodily fasting and cleansing when what we really need to consider are ways of measured abstinence from digital encumbrance. I mean a practice of being alone with phone, television, computers, games, and music turned off. Begin with a half an hour of dedicated time and work your way up to a half or whole day, perhaps. There is lonely and then there is alone, which is healthy.