|When I'm at the ocean, I don't feel asocial. On the contrary, I'm enmeshed in elaborate conversations of the best sort.|
When I was younger, I had a group of friends, a whole crew, a bevy of boys and girls with whom I hung out constantly, drinking, goofing, doing what we did. In college, I had more or less of the same — except that I was living alone. Even in the dorms as a freshman, I had a single room. I remember that I was shocked that I got it — the single room, that is — as I knew there weren't many available. But it turns out most people, especially college freshman, don't want to live alone — which I found weird. This should have been a sign. That and my love for Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling which finds Abraham alone on the mountain top, alone in the world, alone except for god, except for his living in the infinite.
Anyway, as college progressed — or, rather, happened, progress being such a loaded word — I found myself more and more alone. I'd sit in my studio way off campus reading and writing. I had friends still but I became less and less part of a group per se. It was all too much for me; I'd short circuit when in groups.
And so I came West (relatively speaking). And as I happened — progressed being such a loaded term —, I found myself alone to a startling degree (startling for some, that is). I really spend most of my days and nights alone. Where am I gonna go? Shopping? To the gym? Nah. I just stay home. No roommates, no neighbors, a 12 year old boy twice a week (my son, you pervs!), an occasional client call, a date once in a while.
But I do go to the beach several times a week. It's the only place I feel at home. What might strike some as strange is that I don't feel alone there. On the contrary, I feel immersed, enmeshed. Only it's not in the living social: it's in the undulations of the clouds, of the atmospheric cosmos. I go there to socialize with the atmosphere which is, alas, quite plucky. Those clouds have a lot — a lot — to say. And yet they leave me my space, sorta (they do surround me, weigh down upon me).
The atmosphere is not static. It's in a state of constant flux, more or less agitated, fast, sedentary. When I sit and walk along the ocean's edge, I feel like I'm in the best possible conversations. There's no bullshit. Or, well, there might be but it's always from me and the ocean and the clouds call me on it in the most generous way. I fuckin' love those clouds! Those waves! When I'm there, I feel like I'm socializing. I'm going with them, leaning into their ecstasy, their melancholy, their weight, their flux.
Which just goes to show there are different registers of the social. I want to define the social as "going with" rather than as solely human. There are all kinds of things to go with as well as different registers of the human social. I've known people — always women, for some reason — who love going on date after date garnered from the world wide web. That's a kind of social for sure. I've also noted that most of those people burn out: reckoning a new person every day who might or might not want to touch you, fuck you, love you is downright exhausting (for most people — to each her own metabolism, always and of course).
In Year of the Dog, Mike White gives us a character who does not operate well with humans and knows something's wrong. She assumes that something is her. The people around her are not bad; they're just, well, human. But with dogs, she feels right and good; she feels alive. And so she abandons the human world for the world of animals.
I know many people who love plants. To them, a perfect day is meandering through some luscious place — Mt. Tam, China Basin, wherever. They feel good going with the vegetal, with its pace and demands. Others I know love the birds — the soaring and sounds and plumage. I get it; I get it all. But I'm sticking with the clouds for now. Im sticking with that view, every night, from my bedroom window of the greatest party imaginable. And, if I'm so inclined, I can sass it up with some Bibio or Bruce or Broken Social Scene or nothing at all but the hum of life.
Some people really prosper online, on the Facebook and Twitter and such. Social media has really stretched, complicated, and complemented what we think of as the human social. As catfishing and all that testify to, people want to feel connected, even to strangers, even strangely, even if all it is is a strange mix of texts and emails. It feels like life. It is a kind of life. (This is not to belittle social media at all; as one who spends most of his time physically alone, I've known a wide variety of so-called virtual experiences, from the friendly to the sexual, that have resounded for me in profound ways.)
For me, it all comes down to what Nietzsche taught me, perhaps his greatest lesson: be in an environment in which you, in which I, can say Yes as much as possible. For me, so much of the social is filled with No — Don't cut me off, douchebag driver; Does this meeting have a purpose?; Are you really playing this insane game to make me jealous?; and so on and so on and such. But the clouds and the ocean have me saying Yes over and over and over: a persistent hum of affirmation. Sure, sometimes I say No, especially to the wind. The wind can be so rude, after all. But then I just go inside and, voilà, I'm not saying No anymore.
I could of course change myself so I'm saying Yes to whatever comes my way. This is what religious practice would claim to offer. If I meditated and were grounded, I could change myself so as to welcome any and all, including traffic, the wind, manipulative would-be lovers.
But, then again, I am this engine. I am this body, this metabolism, this way of going. And, yes, I work to optimize my engine. But I also know how my engine likes to run — and that's with clouds.