… the highest and most decisive experience of all, … is to be alone with his own self, or whatever else one chooses to call the objectivity of the psyche. The patient must be alone if he is to find out what it is that supports him when he can no longer support himself. Only this experience can give him an indestructible foundation.
My decision to go to Mallorca was not because I wanted to follow the sun, neither was it because I wanted to cycle. My decision to work abroad for two months was informed by a desire to be alone.
As Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” He may have also said that, “Hell is the place we go to when we lose ourselves.”
Instead of Hell, I chose Mallorca.
Don’t misunderstand me, please. Mallorca is a wonderful place. It’s just that it was my choice of wilderness. I needed to find myself and it was going to be no mean task. Being on an island was just fine. Okay, I didn’t have to do deals with lions or fight off the advances of an overly-amorous Satan (I think), but I did have to be on my own; when I wasn’t teaching. This became more intense once I had moved into an apartment overlooking the bay of Palma.
What I was being asked to endure was the imposition of isolation. Having been with my wife for over twenty-five years, I had grown accustomed to the ritual of casual talk. We would talk in the mornings as we woke up to sample the first mug of tea. I could always tell if my wife’s cloud had been hanging over her during the night because most of it would have remained for the dawning of the new day. To add to that, there was the other talk from our daughters. The house was filled with chatter and sometimes there was nowhere to find silence.
I have grown into silence. For someone who couldn’t stop talking when he was younger, this is quite a turnaround. Once, a teacher actually made me stand in the corner of a classroom with sellotape around my mouth. I was ten years old then. My parents had a similar reaction to my constant blabber, or showing off, and I would be warned not to do so in public, at weddings, family get-togethers, or anywhere where I could be an embarrassment. Unfortunately, my wayward tongue continued into my latter years, moving from being strangely amusing to being oddly tragic. It was then the turn of my wife to warn me not to mention the Holocaust or the Spanish Inquisition (the things I chose to talk about at parties). Perhaps, the chatter masked my lack of belief in myself.