Sunday, June 08, 2008

How can one describe silence? How can one share solitude? How can a desire for aloneness cure a loneliness of the soul? That is the rub, isn’t it? The paradox of wilderness. We want it , indeed need wilderness to exist, even if we never set foot in it. Many insist that there be places on this earth where no human treads, even lightly. I am one such person. But I am selfish. I also need places where no permanent trace of man exists, and yet I want to be there. To live, even briefly, as man lived before civilisation, before industrialisation, before globalisation. To breathe the silence, to drink in the emptiness, to swell inside with the fullness of a lonely planet, empty of my own kind.

I can only speak for myself. When I leave behind humanity and enter the wild world, it takes about three days before the voice in my head quiets. Suddenly I am truly present in my surroundings, no longer buffered and shielded by the continuous chatter that substitutes for my own thoughts. Thinking, feeling and being, are revealed to be three different processes of mind. It takes continuous silence, not from sound, but from noise,the kind you are trained since birth to notice, to interpret. Voices, street traffic, music, commercials. And noise, which comes in a visual form as well, especially if written in billboards ten feet high, demands your attention even if you don’t realise it. And by grabbing and holding your attention, noise, in all its forms, robs you of your presence of mind; that is, it takes you out of yourself, and prevents your self from being present, in the moment, and connected to all things.

In the bush, in the desert, on the sea, your attention is also needed, but the volume of traffic on your brain is much slower, more manageable, and devoid of any social context. The word peaceful springs to mind. There is a peace in solitude that cannot exist in the presence of another human being. But how can one describe this kind of peace, with the words that shatter it, deny its existence? How can one hope to communicate the feeling of that moment, when all internal communication stops, ceases to exist, and all that is is a state of peaceful emptiness of mind, of a fullness of spirit, a moment of mere, bare , pure existence? Alone, but not lonely, indeed the opposite of lonely, in which the connectedness of all the universe is known without thought, felt without sensation, but just is.