Tuesday, July 25, 2017


One of my favorite stories of solitude starts in this way:

“Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.”

Another includes this passage:

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off.”

Both the story of the prophet Enos from the Book of Mormon and the story of Henry David Thoreau’s thoughts from Walden echo the ideals of self-communion and isolation; Enos in the company of his thoughts and God, Thoreau in the company of his thoughts and Nature.

Maybe I’m lucky, but I’ve never had a problem with being alone. I’ve written two books in which the central character, even surrounded by others, is essentially alone in his quest to find peace. When they are in the company of others, they often find confusion and hatred and despair. Alone with their thoughts, or with a choice friend (antagonistic at worst, imaginary at best) they find . . . something. One finds a small pocket of peace at the end of a long road of pain. The other finds himself back at the same place he started, with nothing really to show for the long isolation he put himself in. One finds peace as thoughts of guilt flee. The other finds only the insanity that lies in the space between his ears.

Both escape the cave allegorized so well by Plato, even if one only does so briefly.
I spend my summers alone – have done so for the past six years. The best summers were where I was not teaching English online through BYU-Idaho, where I spent my summers in isolation, writing books or tiling floors. Now I have a seven-week stretch in which I will not teach, and three of those will be while my family is still at Scout Camp for the summer. I will have to see what I can do to make these weeks worthwhile.

Last Saturday I saw a glimpse of that contemplation, as I recorded a near-Enos experience. Maybe more like that will come.

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