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Saturday, 5 January 2013

Are you a people person or a lone wolf?

Do you derive your inner strength and energy from solitude or being with people? I have been giving much thought to this recently after a conversation with friends. One friend in particular is of the opinion that we need people - that we are social creatures and built to be in relationship.
While I agree with this statement at face value, my friend seems to also strongly believe that it’s not right to have extended periods alone. He thinks it necessary to virtually always be in the company of others, and that there is something wrong when people want to have an extended period of solitude. It is this part of his thinking that I disagree with.
I believe most people fall into one category or the other in terms of what they prefer. I manage very well without people for days, and I think most creative people fall into this category. My creativity is stifled and suffers when I am with lots of people for an extended time. I need long periods of peace and quiet to produce my best work whether it is writing or calligraphy or art - no radio, no television and no people.
But I know I still need people sometimes. I need to live a life among people if I hope to find sources of material to use in my creativity. To write realistically about people and life, I need to live a life amongst people - to experience character against character, to understand relationships and human nature. To paint or draw the world, I need to be out in it sometimes, living in it and experiencing it, and observing what it looks like and how it works. I think that creative people who shut themselves away for most of their lives might lack the experience of life that feeds into creative work to give it its life and soul.
It seems that being a solitary person is considered a bad thing in a broader sense as well. I am sure everyone is aware of the drive towards team-work everywhere these days. Individuality of any sort is generally actively discouraged in the work-place, with the emphasis on everyone working together as a team. Again, I don’t think team-work is bad, but I object that everyone is expected to accept this as the only way and best way of functioning. It means that in the workplace, probably only about 50% of people are functioning at their best, because we’re not all made to do our best work in teams. What of the quiet achievers whose bursts of genius come while sitting alone in a private office away from chatter, radios and phones?
I think that sometimes people are afraid of being alone. Communication is happening 24/7 with people sometimes never shutting down their computers - permanently logged into Facebook and Twitter. Not so long ago we never had telephones in cars and managed well. Now that we can take them with us, we can’t wait until we get home to return the call - we have to do it straight away.
I sometimes think too, that people are afraid of silence. People have headphones on, radios on and televisions on, even when they’re not listening or watching. How many times do you hear people say that these things are on for company or just to have a bit of background noise?
Please don’t misunderstand me by thinking that I am claiming the solitary life as the only right one either. What I’m trying to say, probably clumsily, is that I think most of us are either one or the other - a people person or a solitary person - and I think you should happily live that nature most of the time, because it’s who you are. But I think we can all benefit by crossing over occasionally into the other realm to enrich our natural predisposition.  There is much value in solitude, and much in being in company with others. It would just be nice if the world saw the value of both, rather than prizing one and devaluing the other.

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