LJ Idol - Season 9 - Week 17 - "Scare Quotes"

"Alone" is a word that, by itself, is not necessarily scary. I have seen people gutted at the thought of spending a week without their partner, absolutely aimless, while others sigh with relief and think of bubble baths and bottles of wine in front of their televisions. To a great many, "alone" is just as terrifying as "shark attack" and "tornado watch," and I suppose that this - in and of itself - is its own kind of scare quote.

There is something prevalent in our society that pushes against being alone. Alone is sad, it says. Alone is pathetic, alone is you and your knitting and 50 cats. (which isn't really alone, is it? but I digress). Nobody should want to be alone, the hivemind thinks - alone is desperation and reeks of depression, takeout containers and pizza boxes. We see "alone," and we think "unattached." We think, "singular. free. unadorned, unburdened." This could be true, and this could also be as far from the truth as you can muster. Either way, "alone" has responsibility: superheroes stand alone in the face of terror and evil, one doctor can make the difference for countless lives. Alone has such power - and maybe that's what is so jarring.

In an undergraduate rhetoric class, we were introduced to the concepts of "god terms" and "devil terms." These are words and phrases that - no matter how much we struggle against them - will always be associated either overwhelmingly positively or negatively in our society. Even the term "rhetoric," for instance, is a devil term - we hear it and automatically assume that politician is sleezy: "he's spewing this rhetoric ..." Is "rhetoric" a damning word? Not at all, it's simply an art of finding the means of persuasion in any situation - something everyone should be at least slightly practiced in doing.

"Alone" and its cousin "lonely" are devil terms - rarely does someone say "I live alone" without someone saying something pitying. "Doesn't it ever get lonely?" or even jokes about where your cat might be, if you're going to ever get another one. We can't seem to accept as a society that some people are alone and deftly, adoringly proud of it. For some reason it bothers us that we can't pigeonhole everyone into a shiny box, partner everyone off and send them on their way. The reality is that relationships falter every day, that there will never be a society where everyone has a "someone," but that is okay. And as much as we might not like to think about it or admit it, we're all alone for those last few steps anyway.

I challenge us as a society to reclaim "alone." Let "alone" depict a vista, a place where it's just you and nature and at that moment there is not another soul in the world. Let "alone" be the freeing light of 4:59 pm on a Friday after a busy work day, when you're in your car driving home and ecstatic about the free time ahead for the weekend. Let's make "alone" the apex, the vista - let "alone" represent freedom of expression, of choice - we might not all choose to be alone, but we can all choose what to do when alone. Let's make "alone" a time of peace and quiet, of reflection and freedom.

After all, only you can prevent forest fires.
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this entry made me think of this poem

(i tried to embed it, but my internet here is shit and i'm impatient)
I remember learning "god terms" and "devil terms" from my AP Lang class.

This was a pretty good entry. There is such a bad connotation attached to being alone, but being alone can actually be a good thing.
I love this entry. And I agree a 100%

Alone isn't a bad word. It's not a bad state. It is what you make it!
My husband has been out of town this weekend and I ate food he doesn't care for and watched a lot of netflix movies he has no interest in. I'll be happy when he gets home, but I need occasional alone time to recharge, and am annoyed when people are horrified that I'm planning to spend a weekend by myself. I agree with your call to action.

(Just a thought, from a playing the game standpoint, you should delete that last parenthetical. This entry may not be everything you hoped, but there's no point in giving anyone else a reason to not vote for you. ymmv)
Yep this. When I got out of town for work in a couple weeks, my husband is planning to cook a bunch of stuff I don't/won't eat, watch movies I don't like, and generally have a grand old time while I'm gone.

As I well expect them to. I'll miss them and they'll miss me, but we both will relish the alone time.
Such a powerful post and very relevant to today's news of Robin Williams's death :( But that of course focuses on the word alone as a negative and I do agree that being alone is a good thing too, I'm a very introverted person myself and need alone time with a book or other such things to recharge. x

Edited at 2014-08-12 11:57 pm (UTC)
Ah, being alone when the spouse is off somewhere else. Sometimes I am really happy with it, sometimes not.
Cheers to that thought! I live by that principle..:) A Good reminder and a nice read.
You know, the times where I was "alone," are the ones where my life was seemingly at its easiest. No one to interfere with my routines! No one else to have to worry about figuring things out with!

This is probably why I am destined to remain a single parent the rest of my life. ;)
Alone and lonely are definitely not the same thing - good job with this!
God, I love being alone. It doesn't happen much in my household, but it's always nice when it does. And I was "alone" (as in single) through most of my twenties, and without a roommate for a bit of them. People were constantly trying to find me someone to date, and I could never figure out why. I wasn't lonely. :P
Thinking about this, there are two forms of "alone" that don't have those negative connotations-- but alone encompasses them both, and neither of them fully captures alone: "sole" (as in, the 'sole savior of humanity') and "solitude" (always restful and if expressed with that word desirable).

The trick is getting us to think of alone as including solitude rather than always assuming loneliness.
I am signing this because I fully agree. I mean, whether someone perceives a word as being negative or positive is up to the person him or herself. But the word "alone" should not have this default negative connotation in society.
An interesting analysis.

I agree there is such an overwhelming push from society that people not be alone, it's ridiculous. And the idea that people are somehow 'wrong' or 'weird' if they choose to be alone needs to stop.

You make a good point here: alone is not synonymous with lonely. I've been lonely in a crowd, but rarely when I was by myself. I've spent a lot of time soul-searching and I realized I'm better off alone. It's freeing. Like you said, it's like "4:59 pm on a Friday after a busy work day, when you're in your car driving home and ecstatic about the free time ahead for the weekend."
I love being alone at times and I dont find myself lonely then. and sometimes I am in a crowd and yet so lonely for not being in the right crowd. loved the take n the prompt