To Revel, Alone
I watched the movie Up in The Air with George Clooney recently. His character, a passionate frequent flyer who reveled in the small pleasures of travel, began the movie pretty happy. A character comes along who jeopardizes his travelling. Too bad it didn't end there, though. She converts his lovely, wistful character into some lonely, pathetic creature with issues. She turned the movie into a Chick-Flick complete with the woman who jilts him (she has a husband already, and children) and the sister who will be happy because she doesn't want to "be alone" in life and marries. In one scene, George coaxes his soon to be brother in law back into the notion of marrying his sister (cold feet) by saying how important it is to have someone to share life with. Wow. Really?
Harry Nillsson wanted our society to focus on its loneliness with One Being the Loneliest Number. Of course it's not all his fault for spreading the doom and gloom on being alone. Jane Austen is a culprit. I have read Pride and Prejudice at least ten times and still love her ironic and inviting style; her characters who slowly realize their own self-sabotage. I am too practical to dream of a Darcy but the Chick Flick fleet of women who buy into the notion of "not being complete" (Thanks, Gerry McGuire!) until they meet someone threatens inner happiness. That is what George began with in the movie. He reveled. Revelers are happy. They find joy. Then, he didn't revel, because he was shamed into thinking that being alone is wrong. You're a sick, sick man if you want to be alone and fly around without a spouse.
I always loved the beginning of Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy because the main character, Gabriel Oak, trounces down a lonely country road with all his belongings on his back. He's broke, turned down, and yet resilient because he keeps his goals simple, close to his joy in farming. In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray's character exacts change by going outside himself to enact kindness, to groom himself for love. What he receives in his goals is self-love, a by-product of time doing things for others unselfishly and for self betterment. Take Andie McDowell out of the plot, and it still works. Bill will revel in his ice carving, in being an aficionado at the piano, and simply enjoying people.
When we see a person eating alone, many think (and even that person might admit) "How sad," or "I'm all alone in the world." We don't think, unless that person is wearing orange robes with a bald head, that he/she is self-fulfilled and happy. We don't allow the idea of "one." So many movies and commercials point fingers at that person eating alone. It's not okay. Something must be wrong with him/her. We have progressed so much in the world and in the expensive tradition of weddings, we scorn those who don't get married. Even as I write this, readers will google me to see if I'm a thousand pounds and have congenital halitosis. Now you'll see that I'm normal enough, so why do I want people to be alone? I don't want people to sit alone at a restaurant, but I do think people can go inward more, can do what Malcolm Gladwell calls the "10,000 hour rule." This means more people would be less concerned with paring off and more concerned with enacting their bliss, doing their passion until they convert (by putting in the time) that passion to expertise.
I remember when I was in my undergrad, working forty hours a week, walking a mile and a half to campus after work to take night classes, I would get down. What good will this do me in the long run, I used to think. Then, in my classes I would meet students from third world countries, working two jobs and going to night school. I felt foolish for getting down, having to walk, having no time to myself. The weekends were my only time I could "practice" writing. I wasn't alone, either. This tirade is not particularly focused on splitting couples or home-wrecking. Let's explore alone-ness versus lonliness. Can we at least leave people be, and hope for inner-happiness?
The night I watched the unhappy George fly off into sudden shame, I tried to rework the plot that would keep him happy and alone. The closest I got was to have him cross over the line with the people he fired, go into their lives, help them find jobs, and convert his travelling into a one man support that tag-teamed with his current company that fired people. The last scene would show him answering emails, "Man, I love you. You changed my life..." There might be a few scenes where he's engaged in witty banter, waving a spaghetti laden fork, with families he's helped. He might be consoling the airport bartender about having to put his dog down. He would most decidedly lie back, alone, into a plushly pillowed bed, open a tiny vodka and reflect on his fulfilled life.