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The Way to Come To Terms With Yourself: Social Distancing Experiment

At times one can feel so much detached from the world he or she is living in that it is a nice and refreshing idea to get a few days off away from this mess. As a rule, three are enough to help one pull himself together and get rid of the oh-my-goodness-I’m-so-sick-and-tired-of all-this stuff kind of mood. Then you are guaranteed to get your ticket to your happily ever after.

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I tried to check that myself. To tell the truth, it was a bit scary. Cutting off contact with the world is worse than cutting off electricity. I am not a coward, but certain fears are implemented in a man from Adam. It is like being afraid of darkness: though you know for sure that there is nothing to trouble your sleep, you still turn the lamp on. It’s a matter of psychology.

Then I started thinking about which kind of mediation to exclude from my life for these three days. As it turned out, my prior means of communication with the world were a mobile phone, a TV set, and, of course, the mighty Internet. Well, goodbye, Google, I thought to myself as I turned off the computer. The handy and the TV shared their destiny. And there was one more but no going out in the street. Well, I felt like a professional hermit, ready to wave a good-bye to the sickening mankind.

However, the profit of staying alone has been debated for years. On the one hand, it can be a certain stage of soul purification and easing the mind, but, on the other hand, a man not prepared properly for such a journey can easily go bonkers. After all, a man is a social animal, as we have been told during our lectures in school. As CrimethInc put it, “The world only began to get something of value from me the moment I stopped being a serious member of society and became—myself” (CrimethInc 89). This is a serious step that demands good training and strong will.

So, I hoped I had both. Off we go, to the Buddhist calm and peacefulness!

The first day was the one when I finally was to figure out if the hermit’s philosophy is the foreground philosophy after all (Hamasher 177). It was very hard to pull myself together and not to dial a friend’s number, but I managed to get hold of myself. As they say, I had to swear to myself that I “will never, ever again do anything but chase your wildest dreams, every moment of your life” (CrimethInc 24). That sounded most solemn and very tough, and I decided that being reclusive is not such a bad thing after all.

However, here came the point at which I started feeling not quite comfortable, for the idea of CremethInc was breathing with force and insistence, while I presumed that those three days would be filled with quiet meditation.

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Of course, I knew all these ideas about the worst-first, and that is why it was rather unexpected for me to figure out that I actually liked being isolated from the world I have been living in for all these years. I could never think that someday I would grow so sick and tired of it. And, in fact, it was the first time I realized how much I was. It seemed to me that I was undergoing a course of purification, bodily and spiritually. I have never felt so much at ease before. An eagle in a free flight must feel the same as I did on my first day of non-contacting with the world. I did not have to trouble myself answering the phone calls, or get agitated watching the newsreel, or losing a computer game. No, sir: I felt just as comfortable and relaxed as a newborn baby. life is wonderful, why waste it on such trifle as gadgets and TV that shows only what they think interesting, not bothering what interests you? Indeed,

“The communication, therefore, is not the mediation between various already constituted positions but is the constitution of these very portions from the distribution of the difference that holds them apart.” (Hamasher 178).

I have never felt so free from the ties of communication before. So long, the world!

However, as time passed, I felt the excitement leave me.

The next day was awakening from the fabulous dream. It was very hard to continue the forced detachment, but I still kept away from the world. This day was rather philosophic and made me consider various aspects of people’s life and their interaction. The most sudden question that occurred to me was why people talk to each other or get into a complicated relationship. Is it just a habit inherited from the times immemorial? Or maybe we are programmed to speak and be heard? Is it the absence of a vis-à-vis that makes us feel upset, or do we have the urge to state our opinion out loud?

It seems to me that the social concept is important mostly because as human beings, we have some information carried within us that we have to transmit to others. It is not psychological, but physical or, if you like it better, a genetic peculiarity, which makes people live in a society and keeps them away from deserted places.

However, at times we do need some “brainwashing” to get rid of the waste information that we don’t actually need and to go on in our private search for the piece of knowledge that we really need. That reminds me much o Goethe’s Faust and his desire to know what makes the world go round. Learning, learning, learning – that is what we consider prior in our lives. We spend some twenty years learning, and some of us even more, and still we feel it is not enough. Will this chase ever end? That sounds doubtful. Anyway, “Cleanliness is next to godliness” (ClimethInc 71), and we are far from being gods.

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I have to admit that the third day went into turmoil. Torn between the desire to talk to anyone and they wish to finish the experiment successfully, I almost went mad. I know that the idea of people slowly losing the spirituality is awful, and Schumacher’s words:

“Many of our contemporaries prefer to remain on the ground” (2)

sounds like a reproach, but it still takes a stoic of a man to go on isolating himself from the world. At a certain moment, it means purification and calm meditation, but as it goes further on, you start feeling that you are losing the ground.

It might be reasonable to calm down and prepare myself to meet the world I haven’t seen for three days, and that was exactly what I did. After three days spent in silence and closed curtains, the brightness and loudness of the world outside might be a real shock.

As time passed slowly, I understood that Keith Ansell-Pearson had a point when stating that the hermit philosophy,

“even were it written with a lion’s claw, would still look like a philosophy of quotation marks” (260).

It is a great miracle that I managed to stay sane and get over this hard period. As the last day of my experimental reclusion was over, I took a heavy thank-you-my-goodness breath and rolled up all the philosophic problems till the next day.

Eventually, I would say that this experiment proved several points that I would have never considered right unless I had this extraordinary experience.

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The whole lot of problems rooting from our lack of experience and the unwillingness to come to terms with the world is something that we are to deal with on our own. And, besides, we are to have feelings of our own. The TV and the other mass media is a king of a shield that makes us both unaware of what the world is and what is going on there, as well as unprotected and unprepared for it, since we have never tasted what the real world is.

“Do you ever need to see the sky? (Can you see many stars in it any more?) Do you ever need to see water, leaves, foliage, animals? Glinting, glimmering, moving? Is that why you have a pet, an aquarium, houseplants? Or are television and video your glinting, glimmering, moving? How much of your life comes at you through a screen, vicariously?” (CrimethInc, 145)

Indeed, these are the questions we never ask ourselves. And at times it is terrifying how far we have gone with our indifference and unwillingness to get to know about anything or anybody. It is a real shame how seldom we think of such questions. Or do we ever think about such things? The propaganda streaming from the TV and the other media has to be dealt with, and this is the right time to take off the pink glasses we have been wearing for so long.

The question of the utmost importance is if all people ever concluded that they have to live a full life. This is the factor that their lives, as well as the lives of their children, depend on. There must be another way to entertain that makes people live a cultural life, which is actually the main difference between people and animals. I might sound harsh, but this is the hard truth people will have to live with. The radical choice of oneself that Taylor was talking about (112) begins here.

And, finally, there is the question that, in my opinion, stands above all:

“Do you sometimes feel yourself ready to LOSE CONTROL?”

A man can be cruel, sinful, and stupid, that is all humane and thus acceptable. But the only thing a man cannot afford is being passive. When rational, anger is good. It makes you think. So, get angry with me and think well. And maybe something changes.

Works Cited

Ansell-Pearson, Keith. Nietzsche and Modern German Thought. London: Routledge, 1991. Print.

CrimethInc. Days of War and Nights of Love. Lansing, MI: Michigan University. 2009. Print.

Hamasher, Werner. Premises: Essays on Philosophy from Kant to Selan. Sandford, CA: Sandford University Press, 1996. Print.

Schmucher, Bernard M. A Cosmopolitan Hermit: Modernity and Tradition in the Philosophy of Joseph Pieper. New York, NY: The Catholic University of the America Press, 2009. Print.

Taylor, Charles, James Tully, Daniel M. Weinstock. Philosophy in an Age of Pluralism: the Philosophy of Charles Taylor in Question. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Print.

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