The other day, I sat alone in my living room, television off, and just listened. It was inadvertant, actually. I had just turned the TV off and was absolutely struck by how quiet it was. Middle of the day, no one else in the building, no cars passing by…nothing.
In one of my other lives, I am a .tv Advocate (more info on that here), and I was thinking about the .tv domain, which is actually a country code for a tiny remote island-country called Tuvalu. To satisfy my curiosity, I searched for Tuvalu on Google maps, and switched over to the satellite view to really get an idea of what this place looked like.
Tuvalu is tiny. A few slivers of land seemingly drift through the blue coral waters of the South Pacific Ocean. A narrow swath of greenery stretches down the center of the islands, like a painter took a glob of deep green paint and stretched it as far as she could on her canvas. As I zoomed in on the islands, I started to notice a few buildings, the only clues that any humans ever set foot on the bright white sand beaches.
I started to wonder what it must feel like to live in Tuvalu. This tiny island nation rests in the middle of nowhere, likely with no economy, no exportables, hell, probably no electricity (I’m exaggerating of course, as even Tuvalu has been hit by modernity; in fact, it looks like a great place to visit). I wonder if the silence is deafening. I wonder how it must feel to sit in a bungalo on the beach, the warm tropical air flowing through the open windows and rustling the palm trees outside. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it?
Sure it does. To a point. After awhile, though, doesn’t that solitude get annoying, even a bit frightening? Set aside having to deal with an emergency or illness, but just that feeling of beeing alone in this place is more than a bit disconcerting to me. Still, I search for it. All the time, I search for solitude like that.
Where I live, in the northeast United States, you can try to escape the intersections of your life and the lives of others by running deep into the forests, but you’re never really alone. Everywhere, there are reminders of other people, whether a trail, or the sound of a snowmobile, or the vision of a jet’s vapor trail tracing its icy way across the winter sky.
I think most of us search for the type of solitude that hardly exists anymore. There are more people on Earth than ever in history. We hop, skip, and jump across the planet to find our own little piece of paradise, never knowing when—or if—we’ll ever find it. What do we do if we do happen to stumble across true solitude? Do we embrace it wholeheartedly, enjoying our apartness from the rest of the 7 billion other nutcases on the planet? Or do we let the fear of aloneness seep into the deepest reaches of our minds, eating away at the very fiber of our being? We hope the former, but are we sure the latter won’t happen? I think, even in remote Tuvalu, you’ll be hard pressed to find true solitude anyway.
What brings me some comfort is this fact: Every day, scientists discover at least one new species of animal or insect that has never been seen before. That must mean there are still places of solitude in the world. I like that idea.