My Quantum of Silence
”He was crushingly poor, but he no longer felt the oppression.” Fyodor Dostoevsky “Crime and Punishment”
“Lights!” I hear them shout at 6 AM. The flood lamps blaze to life, yet they do not pierce the darkness, for it is never dark. Even in the blackest night without the lunar glow, a light akin to a porch light washes over me. I pull my Civil War era tuberculosis blanket over my face to block the stream of photons and adjust my eyes. I know what comes next, the worst part of my morning.
“Breakfast!” A small horizontal door opens on the door to my corner office, and a tray slides in. I look it over without expectation with eyes squinting, “hmmm…no hard boiled eggs this morning, what should I take a chance on today?” The 2% milk carton was sealed from the manufacturer. It is 2% of the cow’s contribution, I suppose. “Coffee!” Oh yes, the coffee. I stick my Romper Room rubber mug out through the opening and watch for the absence of steam coming up from the mug. I already know, like every morning, that I’m not going to drink it. It is not so much the lukewarm watered down coffee that will eventually propel me to pour it down the drain, more so the unrelenting odor of my rubber Romper Room mug, likely made by 3M out of old tires salvaged from toxic dumps under some state revitalization program. The cows 2% contribution cannot improve on it. I pour out the coffee and put my tray back in the slot. It is an unconscious exercise I go through each day for curious appearances I suppose. My fantasy moves on to lunch where there might be an apple today.
I am Steven in the Blind writing from Paradise, a particular kind of paradise; my mind castle; an intimacy with myself.
Every experience held with equanimity brings forth fruit. It is not that the particular circumstances are not outrageously unjust, but the outrage brings with it a deeper intuition to my soul. Loneliness is an inescapable experience, and it seems to maintain a natural balance in its effects of good or ill. If you break down all the elements of imprisonment, at its core is a forced isolation. How powerful an instrument of reprisal when so many are paralyzed with terror in their inner world at the thought of loneliness. I am one who values solitude and all the more being emancipated from a 25-year relationship of engulfment. I discovered my energy and solitude, the renewing of my thoughts; rewarded with creativity and self-knowledge; provided a deep grounding with the revelation of experience.
I received a gift when I was very young. According to D.W. Winnicott, this gift is called, “ego-relatedness” and it developed my tolerance for loneliness as a small child having the secure presence of my mother and being allowed to experience myself alone. This healthy maturation does not occur with an engulfing or neglectful caregiver. This gift allowed me to enter my aloneness with curiosity and exploratory reflection.
Loneliness is a subjective experience, and you are hearing mine. I am never alone. Winnicott’s “ego-relatedness” remains with me through my capacity to be alone. There is always “someone” there with me in my inner world, and while the visiting chaplain proffers I am never alone because God is always with me, I ponder to myself, “How is God always with me?” Harry Guntrap’s analysis of the British mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell concluded that “one can reach the core [of loneliness] only through great love.” And that is the “how” in my subjective experience. I am surrounded by love and my inner world; my instinctual world still holds the secure presence of another. The emotional maturity developed from my mother’s secure-presence in loneliness is corequisite to this paradox Winnicott describes as, “…based on the experience of being alone in the presence of someone, and that without a sufficiency of this experience the capacity to be alone cannot develop.”
My experience is validated by the many reference points who engage me without my knowing, and the “ego-relatedness” I receive through the vast communication of my family, friends, colleagues, professor, therapist, and a girl named “Whiskey,” brandishing a Kit Kat bar. I am known by the staff here due to the sheer volume of mail delivered to my corner office, and their polite requests to ask “my people” not to call so often as others cannot use the kiosk. My gifted partner and her husband, Jim, are my voluntary switchboard operators; they are my beloved’s.
As I sit here and write you, my dear reader, I see the stacks of correspondence overflowing my small desk and ponder, “Perhaps this is what the chaplain meant? Love is right before me. I can touch it; I can revisit it.”
And now I write…
For my solitude is not without fruit…
This is Steven in the Blind… Signing out.
The passionate Phoenix of Firefly Horizons and conceptual prognosticator of Mutatis Mutandis reborn through the scorching forge of his annihilation into creative sanctuary. Steve translates the fury of his Phoenix experience into experiential exegesis in search of perspectives not yet in view. Read more about Steve • Articles by Steve