Confessions of a Party Animal
Something I’ve daydreamed about a lot lately is living in the woods, or somewhere isolated. Someplace where I could become totally detached. To me, that would be living the dream. During the day I’d probably go interact with people at work and stuff but afterwards I’d have a lot of time to enjoy being alone.
It’s not that I don’t like people but they make me uncomfortable. I can deal with small numbers pretty well but large groups are torture for me. Probably my least favorite occasions are parties. I hate them. There is just too much going on for me to deal with. I think the point of hanging out with people is to share something with them; whether it is an experience, time, thoughts, feelings, or even food. I feel incapable of sharing almost anything in large groups. I simply do not have enough in me to share with a large group, especially when I can barely hear the person next to me and our conversation reverts to lip reading. For me parties are a paradox. I expect that since a ton of people will be there, more will be shared. Life will be exponentially better. But it just doesn’t work like that for me.
Maybe I’m just a little slow and can’t keep up with the fast pace of large groups, but in a room full of faces I find true interaction scarce. When you have to compete to interact with someone it’s very hard to think that your interaction will be valued and hence we make small talk. If you’re not confident that another person will value what you share with them you’ll probably just talk about the weather or some other surface level topic. And if your whole life is a party you’ll either adapt to that situation or never experience yourself, or others.
If you ever want to share anything past a surface level interaction with someone else, you’d better get to know yourself past the surface. That takes a lot of time and introspection. You’ve got to spend time alone with your thoughts at night. One of my favorite things to do is go for trail runs. It’s partly for the exercise but also for the solitude. I don’t run with an iPod or anything and I used to think that it might be a good idea to get audio books for my runs. I thought that it would be more productive if I had them going while I ran. But I decided that I didn’t want them because life happens too quickly to not take time to be alone and reflect. I think that it was a wise decision. Being totally alone in the middle of nowhere gives you plenty of time to stop and think.
You’ve got to reflect on what is happening in your life. The reason we study history is find out who people were and who we are. History is extremely complex. It’s a web of interconnected struggles. It is factions warring against each other to create a compromise or a solution to a disagreement. Each solution has ripple effects and the web is beyond what we can know. It’s just too complex to ever comprehend all of even a section of history. But it’s well worth our time to study it. The hints and insights gained by meticulous study can help to inform us of pieces of the human identity.
We are microcosms of history. Each individual is incredibly complex. There is a war raging in the heart of every man. Each experience you have is a moment of truth. We are the culmination of these moments. We are in the process of becoming ourselves, just like history is in the process of revealing itself. It’s important to understand that you are a process. You’re not done living, so you’re not done becoming yourself. The older that you get the more yourself you become. Once you’re done living than you can understand who you were.
In the mean time reflecting on history and your own personal history is a good diagnostic check. We can track the direction that we are heading and change course when needed. Hopefully, introspection will show you how complex you are, which is pretty cool. But what is even cooler is the appreciation that it will give you for others, and life itself.
Knowing that you can’t ever wrap your mind around who you are should give you a renewed respect for other people. Instead of simplifying others to caricatures and stereotypes introspection should help you realize the complexity of each individual. An immense amount variety has gone into each one of us.
Furthermore, spending time alone makes other people kind of a big deal. The less there is of something the more valuable that thing becomes. The less time you have with other people, the more valuable time with others becomes. I’d imagine that prisoners appreciate other people a lot more after a stint in solitary confinement than beforehand. It’s important to schedule moments of solitude in your day-to-day life.
The world has become more interconnected and it is spoiling us. We have facebook, cell phones, and news reports of an overpopulated planet. It’s almost impossible to escape other people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve groaned about the thought of seeing certain people. What a crummy attitude. The abundance of options has made me picky, like a bratty kid that cries about eating broccoli. Each one of us is irreplaceable. Just because there are plenty of people doesn’t mean that each person isn’t valuable. I constantly have to remind myself of that when I leave my house.
Our culture has idolized being connected. Everybody needs to be in touch with everybody at all times. If you aren’t hanging out with people then you’re weird. One time I was just sitting on a bench and a guy came over looking real concerned and asked me if I was ok. Never better. I think that he thought I was suicidal or something. I understand that man is a social creature but I mean come on, is it really that weird to sit by yourself and be fine?
The church is catching onto this trend. I’ve noticed that a lot of churches are renaming small groups community groups, or life groups. Personally, I prefer calling them small groups but I totally understand why Churches are renaming them. Our generation is ironically one of the most connected and loneliest feeling generations ever. (The Barna group has a study out on how Americans have changed in the last decade: https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/624-how-the-last-decade-changed-american-life#.UtNGDii53fg ). Our generation feels like we can never be connected enough. The Church is just adapting to society’s problems.
What would do us some real good as people is taking a step back every once in a while. Take time to be quiet and be alone. And be cool with it. Instead of being bored, be idle. Enjoy taking a break from doing stuff and reflect on who you are and who you want to be. Once you realize that being alone is good you’ll begin to realize why being with others is good. We are meant to share life together but I don’t think we’re meant to be clingy. If the world will practice solitude I’ll practice being social a little more. I think that’s a fair compromise.