Does the idea of left alone fill you with fright, or seem a luxury? Erica Buist speaks to five people whose lifestyles leave them in splendid isolation
What’s the difference between solitude and loneliness? We may confuse the two because we’ve been developed since we were young to be considered them as the same government. By sending children to their chambers as punishment, we teach them the idea that aloneness is a privation.” It should be a reward ,” tells Sara Maitland, writer of How To Be Alone.” It should be:’ You’ve been so good that now you can go to your room to be by yourself and do anything you like !'”
It’s true that social lonelines is a risky business.” If you look at it epidemiologically, it’s a surprisingly powerful bad thing ,” says Steve Cole, genomics researcher and prof of drug at UCLA in California. His research determined it to be a substantial risk factor influencing whether people get sick and die.” Everything seemed to eat up the body of a lonely person faster .”
But loneliness is simply being alone and not liking it, says Maitland. And while over 9 million adults in Britain say they are often or always lonely, she doesn’t believe we have, as scientists say, a loneliness epidemic.” An epidemic means communicable diseases, which is inaccurate and stigmatising .” Rather, Maitland believes we are ” underskilled ” when it comes to being by ourselves, and “that were” deprived of those skills as children.” Everybody mentions it is natural for the human species to be social ,” she says,” yet we put enormous amounts of endeavor into qualifying our children to be sociable. We tell them,’ don’t combat, say thank you, share your toys … ‘, we send them to playgroup. We’re depriving them of the skills for left alone .”
There is also, tells Maitland,” something weird” about a culture that encourages high self-esteem yet discourages us from spend time with the person we ought to like best. Living in a rural village 70 miles away from the nearest railway station, Maitland mentions people feel sorry for her because she never goes to any parties.” I don’t feel sorry for me. We should be listening to people who enjoy aloneness more, and not presume they’re mad or somehow selfish .”
For some, solitude is the ultimate trophy, the key to happiness. So what’s the artwork of being alone? I asked five people who love nothing more.