bookishgeek: (MLP - twilight - insane)
[personal profile] bookishgeek
"Alone" is a word that, by itself, is not necessarily scary. I have seen people gutted at the thought of spending a week without their partner, absolutely aimless, while others sigh with relief and think of bubble baths and bottles of wine in front of their televisions. To a great many, "alone" is just as terrifying as "shark attack" and "tornado watch," and I suppose that this - in and of itself - is its own kind of scare quote.

There is something prevalent in our society that pushes against being alone. Alone is sad, it says. Alone is pathetic, alone is you and your knitting and 50 cats. (which isn't really alone, is it? but I digress). Nobody should want to be alone, the hivemind thinks - alone is desperation and reeks of depression, takeout containers and pizza boxes. We see "alone," and we think "unattached." We think, "singular. free. unadorned, unburdened." This could be true, and this could also be as far from the truth as you can muster. Either way, "alone" has responsibility: superheroes stand alone in the face of terror and evil, one doctor can make the difference for countless lives. Alone has such power - and maybe that's what is so jarring.

In an undergraduate rhetoric class, we were introduced to the concepts of "god terms" and "devil terms." These are words and phrases that - no matter how much we struggle against them - will always be associated either overwhelmingly positively or negatively in our society. Even the term "rhetoric," for instance, is a devil term - we hear it and automatically assume that politician is sleezy: "he's spewing this rhetoric ..." Is "rhetoric" a damning word? Not at all, it's simply an art of finding the means of persuasion in any situation - something everyone should be at least slightly practiced in doing.

"Alone" and its cousin "lonely" are devil terms - rarely does someone say "I live alone" without someone saying something pitying. "Doesn't it ever get lonely?" or even jokes about where your cat might be, if you're going to ever get another one. We can't seem to accept as a society that some people are alone and deftly, adoringly proud of it. For some reason it bothers us that we can't pigeonhole everyone into a shiny box, partner everyone off and send them on their way. The reality is that relationships falter every day, that there will never be a society where everyone has a "someone," but that is okay. And as much as we might not like to think about it or admit it, we're all alone for those last few steps anyway.

I challenge us as a society to reclaim "alone." Let "alone" depict a vista, a place where it's just you and nature and at that moment there is not another soul in the world. Let "alone" be the freeing light of 4:59 pm on a Friday after a busy work day, when you're in your car driving home and ecstatic about the free time ahead for the weekend. Let's make "alone" the apex, the vista - let "alone" represent freedom of expression, of choice - we might not all choose to be alone, but we can all choose what to do when alone. Let's make "alone" a time of peace and quiet, of reflection and freedom.

After all, only you can prevent forest fires.

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