Anonymous asked: Just one, as far as I know. But you seem the solitary type.
To pinch a line from Morrissey (Reel Around the Fountain), you’re ‘half-right.’ I am fairly solitary, yes. But I’m not one of those chaps with ginger whiskers and a funny walk, nervously twitchy mannerisms who you just know is feverishly manufacturing a new kind of atomic bomb in his garden-shed; I do have friends (don’t you know), I do go out into the world, I do, to lift from the Bard, ‘cake and ale.’
My job requires solitude (academic research, editing), my passion requires solitude (writing, key-bashing, banging my head against my desk until it, or I, or both, bleed), and one of my chief sources of pleasure requires solitude (ever tried to read while someone in the same room is talking, breathing, observing universal Newtonian laws?). Besides – I never really see it as solitude. I’m not alone while I read, in fact you could argue that it’s the antithesis of being alone. When you read a novel – now bear with me, it may get a little plangent and lyrical around here for a moment – when you read a novel you’re communing with the author, yet the difference is that you’re only getting the author’s very best. You’re sitting down with another person for six, eight, thirteen, seventeen hours! more sometimes; seventeen hours with one person, and it’s their very best that they’re giving to you: a polished, refined and thought-intense conversation that takes you seventeen hours to hear, and took them an entire life of experience to speak. I’d hardly call that alone.
Incidentally – I don’t really have an answer to the hearts questions: I don’t really think it works like that. People get hurt, with various levels of severity; and I think you can never really know how severe you’ve hurt someone. Think of you yourself: you keep secrets, secrets of secret wounds; the minor slight, the little episode, the trivial memory that somehow lingers thickly in your memory, that for you alone still causes you to wince and recoil, audibly gasp and groan whenever you think of it; and then there’s the major upheaval, the family shaking catastrophe that, to your surprise, you dealt with with relative equanimity. Most people are like that.
Know this: there’s someone out there, more probably, that you’ve been kind or cruel to without ever knowing. We can only really ever endeavour to be careful with other people’s feelings, yet all the time being careful not to arrest ourselves and the moment: after all, there’s something to be said for shadow and verve. After all, there’s something to be said for being yourself.
It’s a tightrope Spud, it’s a fucking tightrope. Sure.