One of the paradoxes of human life is that society corrupts but isolation destroys. While critiquing Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, J H Stape points out a number of related paradoxes. Civilisation is a hypocritical veneer over savagery; yet it is a valuable achievement to be vigilantly guarded. Morality is a sham; but without it human beings become sham humans. Awareness is superior to ignorance; yet ignorance can be bliss in many ways. A person who sells his soul does at least have a soul to sell, while most people who try to redeem their souls through quotidian religious practices do not have a soul at all.
The latest Indispire theme [Human beings need someone in their life. At least a person to ask occasionally, how one feels now. What's your say on it?] brought to my mind these paradoxes. The theme is essentially about relationships. It can be rephrased as: Can we live alone? Do we need at least one companion?
Hermits live alone. However, their god(s) and spiritual practices save them from the potential destructiveness of isolation. There are recluses who are not hermits. Their dislike of human society sustains their isolation. I guess they find some means of engagement which may be a less spiritual alternative to the hermit’s choice. Pets, garden, books or something else may be their saviours. If they are happy with their choices, I am no one to question them. If they are not happy with the choices, I still have no right to question them as long as their discontent does not spill out in antisocial forms.
Personally, I am not enamoured of any society. I never fit into any of the societies that were kind enough to tolerate me from my childhood. And I had no choice but tolerate them too. Given a choice along with the economic buffers it entails, I would choose quasi-isolation. Books are good companions. They are not only harmless but also intellectually stimulating and, to some extent, emotionally sustaining. But the emotional sustenance provided by books is a virtual reality, almost like what I derive from blogging. Some real emotions are good. A caring touch, an affectionate glance, some real reciprocity is very reassuring. It makes me feel more human. And that feeling has a comfortable warmth about it.
That warmth can occasionally spark off into a smouldering fire. That’s another inevitable paradox of human life. Since there is no safe escape from such paradoxes, I choose the minimum required. What really matters is that there are more smiles in life with that minimum.