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All alone

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By Ken Begley

You know, it’s a really crazy, fast-paced world we live in. It’s so fast paced that we frequently get on each others’ nerves, and the resulting stress makes you just want to run away.

You ever feel that way?

You ever wish you could be on some deserted island, or off in some faraway mountains? Go where no one was there, and you had nothing you had to do. If so, then you might enjoy a couple of stories I have, and the answer might be surprising.

I joined the Navy back when I was 17, and served on an aircraft carrier home ported in Florida. Navy guys probably see more of the world than anybody else. We would sit around at night and talk about places we’d seen and things we’d done. It was commonplace to hear such stories after a while.

Still, one guy told me about spending a week on a deserted island in the Caribbean. He was actually an orphan who had been raised in the Great Plains before joining the Navy. He was older than me by about 10 years, and always had a few more adventures than the ordinary sailor.

Anyway, we were talking one time and Ed told me this story.

Ed said there were a lot of small, uninhabited islands in the Caribbean. Most are only a few acres of land. He read in a magazine where you could pay a local with a boat to drop you off with some supplies and then pick you back up a week or so later.

It sounded interesting, so he did it.

Think about it.

How many days in your life do you not have some human contact, either directly or indirectly? Even if you don’t see someone, you can listen to television, talk on the phone, e-mail people, or listen to the radio.

So I asked him the obvious question: “What was it like?”

“Well, I got really excited when he dropped me off the first day. He put me on the beach with my supplies. I brought a few books. I made a little shelter and stored everything. Then it was like being a kid again.”

“I spent the first day and a half exploring the island. The island was pretty small, so I had been over every piece of it a couple of times by then.”

“What about after that?” I asked in eager anticipation. “What did you do then?”

“Got bored. Then just slept and read a lot?”

“That’s it?”

“Pretty much, except by the fifth and sixth day I got plenty nervous, wondering if that dude was really going to come back and get me off that island. Man, I kept thinking I was hearing a motorboat over and over again. I’d run down to the beach and no one would be there.”

I was really disappointed in the story.

He could see that and said, “At night it’s really dark with no lighting anywhere, and you start imagining and hearing things. You really just end up sleeping and reading a lot while you wait for the boat to return.”

Still, my dream was to go off into the woods and spend my time writing and reading. Years later I was in the Army and told my dream to a grizzled old sergeant who was a real outdoorsman in every sense of the word.

He looked at me and said, “You’d last 30 days.”

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“Because I’ve done it. The woods are pretty boring if you’re by yourself out there.”

Undeterred, I still decided to try a little bit of this on my own. I backpacked 24 days in the Blue Ridge Mountains back in 1980. I spent three of those days totally alone, camped out in one spot.

You know what? I read and slept a bunch, and that was about it.

Later, in 1982, I hiked about 13 days on the Inca Trail in the Peruvian Andes Mountains going to an Inca historical site called Machu Picchu. I spent one night totally alone at an elevation of about 12,000 feet. The scenery was pretty, but it was the same result again.

What does all this mean?

Well, wishing to be all alone is probably a nice dream at times, but that’s all it is, a dream.

The only thing that makes life interesting, and yes worth living, is other people.

So, loneliness must be the most terrible of human conditions.

You know, I always felt that’s why God made us.

He was filled with love and that made him lonely to share it.

If we are made like God, then loneliness must mean we have love to share, but no one to share it with.

That must be what God feels like when we reject him.

We’re more like him than we realize.

No man is an island.

Take care, my friend.