Thursday, June 18, 2009

Social Creatures

In 1960 John Steinbeck embarked on a journey across the country with his Poodle Charley. He said that he realized that he had been writing stories about the American life but that he hadn't really known the extent of people, cultures, or places in his great country. His journey is chronicled in what I think is his only non-fiction book Travels with Charley; in Search of America. The following is an excerpt from the book that spoke to my core. I understand exactly what he means by this and it really speaks to the human spirit; that we are social creatures and that we need each other:

"Having a companion fixes you in time and that the present, but when the quality of aloneness settles down, past, present, and future all flow together. A memory, a present event, and a forecast all equally present... A number of years ago I had some experience with being alone. For two succeeding years I was alone each winter for eight months at a stretch in the Sierra Nevada mountains on Lake Tahoe. I was a caretaker on a summer estate during the winter months when it was snowed in. And I made some observations then. As the time went on I found that my reactions thickened. Ordinarily I am a whistler. I stopped whistling. I stopped conversing with my dogs, and I believe that subtleties of feeling began to disappear until finally I was on a pleasure-pain basis. Then it occurred to me that the delicate shades of feeling, of reaction, are the result of communication, and without such communications they tend to disappear. A man with nothing to say has no words. Can its reverse be true--a man who has no one to say anything to has no words as he has no need for words? Now and then there appear accounts of babies raised by animals--wolves and such. It is usually reported that the youngster crawls on all fours, makes those sounds learned from his foster parents, and perhaps even thinks like a wolf. Only through imitation do we develop toward originality..."

And this is why I blog.

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