Hide and Seek

I’ve always felt a great solace in solitude. There is a great history of metaphysics behind the power of isolation. Stripping to the basics is a key symbol to reach the Sacred within us. It is such a powerful route that not a culture on Earth has denied its existence. The richest man is the man with nothing. Nothing to get in the way of self, to distract us from what is real. Like a poet’s imagination, the muse buried inside can blossom in those twilight hours away from all the hustle and bustle. For those of us lucky enough to be there, the listening is all we need in life to drive us forward. Much like the narrator in Shelley’s “Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude” who restlessly pursues the most obscure parts of nature searching for the undiscovered truth, when we finally get that glimpse of the greater unknown, it has a way of driving us mad trying to understand it. It is that search for the understanding of the Sacred, of trying to justify that greater sense in our lesser world, that truly teaches us about ourselves.

Mother of this unfathomable world!
Favor my solemn song, for I have loved
Thee ever, and thee only; I have watched
Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps,
And my heart ever gazes on the depth
Of thy deep mysteries. I have made my bed
In charnels and on coffins, where black death
Keeps record of the trophies won from thee,
Hoping to still these obstinate questionings
Of thee and thine, by forcing some lone ghost,
Thy messenger, to render up the tale
Of what we are. In lone and silent hours,
When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness,
Like an inspired and desperate alchemist
Staking his very life on some dark hope,
Have I mixed awful talk and asking looks
With my most innocent love, until strange tears,
Uniting with those breathless kisses, made
Such magic as compels the charmèd night
To render up thy charge; and, though ne'er yet
Thou hast unveiled thy inmost sanctuary,
Enough from incommunicable dream,
And twilight phantasms, and deep noonday thought,
Has shone within me, that serenely now
And moveless, as a long-forgotten lyre
Suspended in the solitary dome
Of some mysterious and deserted fane,
I wait thy breath, Great Parent, that my strain
May modulate with murmurs of the air,
And motions of the forests and the sea,
And voice of living beings, and woven hymns
Of night and day, and the deep heart of man.

    - Percy Bysshe Shelly - Alastor! or The Spirit of Solitude (1815)

The beauty of solitude is not all encompassing, though. Many of us crave the human touch to fill the voids we find in ourselves. The searching can be awful lonely, after all. So we touch each other, hold each other, craddle together for warmth. In a moment’s peace we seek our communion only to step back into the comfort of each other after our trailblazing is finished. It is only the bravest, or perhaps most helpless of us that ever really gets away. But the beauty of human beings is that spark of French philosophy that has touched our age so brilliantly, like a flashlight in a deep cave. In our existential way of being, we are all only our own unique lives, each responsible in our own ways. And so we watch each life as an experiment for the group, with blameless regard for those around us, and in complete awe of their successes. When Whitman wrote “Leaves of Grass” and championed his unique strand of existence, it shone like a beacon. We all must be reminded of our place in the world and that no one else can live our lives for us.

My lovers suffocate me,
Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin,
Jostling me through streets and public halls,coming
    naked to me at night,
Crying by day, Ahoy! from the rocks of the river,
    swinging and chirping over my head,
Calling my name from the
flower-beds, vines, tangled
    underbrush,
Lighting on every moment of my life,
Bussing my body with soft balsamic busses,
Noiselessly passing handfuls out of their hearts and
    giving them to be mine.

Old age superbly rising! O welcome, ineffable grace
    of dying days!
Every condition promulges not only itself,
    it promulges what grows after and out of itself,
And the dark hush promulges as much as any.

    - Whitman

Whether alone or in a crowd, we are all unique as snowflakes. And as snow we clump willingly together, packed in by the pressure of those around us. The glimmers of light are still there, though, and those brilliant flakes remind us of our important paths yet to come.