Monday, December 27, 2004

Independence Day

I read an article in the Globe & Mail celebrating lonliness, and the treatment that is meted out to the concept in books. Thats where I found out about Independence Day by Richard Ford, a pulitzer winner.

The story focuses on the life of Frank Bascombe going through his 'Existence Period', a time in life where he is happy to answer the question, 'Do you have a life, Frank?' with a 'no thanks, I have an existence'. He justifies his purposeless wanderings in real estate, his non-committal arrangement with Sally (another existence period dweller), and ex-wife Ann, who has moved on to a better life. He salutes the good in life rather than go after the best, and finally realizes that not taking a risk is the biggest risk of all.

I saw an uncanny resemblance between my last two years and his 'existence period'. 'Going slow', 'one thing at a time', setting small goals and trying real hard not to answer the grand-er questions that life has thrown at me. The way he has distanced himself from those who love him, asking everyone to leave him to his fate, forsaking love and its entwined spirals, demanding privacy; its was all too familiar, and kept me 'thinking about thinking' (as his son puts it).
There are times in life when existence works, but stretch it too far and it expands to encapsulate all interactions between human beings. Conversations dwindle, clarity is lost, and all thats left is lonely stretches of silence; a silence that can never reciprocate the spontaneous laugh, the untimely sorrow, the dry wit or the unlikely musings that arise when two people connect.

But life is so... individual, so specific, so very unique these days that the focus on 'me' can not be shattered. It has become a race truly, no matter how holy the goals might be. Why is their so little time, so many mountains to climb, journeys to complete, heights to rise to? Isn't the existence period our way of slamming the door to society and its imposed values?
Isn't Frank the modern day hermit who is trying to make sense of himself rather than mix in with the rest?