5 June 2013

Only Listeners Are Bored

Richard King (pseudonym of Richard King Huskinson, 1879-1947), With Silent Friends (London: Bodley Head, 1917), p. 100:
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is in life to be alone? Always have you to fight and still fight on for an acknowledgement of these hours of voluntary solitude which you seek, and which, after long periods of "giving out," are assuredly your due. People seem to dislike to see anybody enjoying themselves, by themselves. They call it being unsociable; but they mean that you are selfish. Secretly, in their heart of hearts, they believe that because you are alone, you must be feeling either depressed or dull. They imagine that your mood would immediately take upon itself a more roseate hue were they to intrude upon your solitude to prophesy to you concerning the weather. The more they love you the longer they will prophesy. They demand of you a confirmation of the idea that it will necessarily be fine in the afternoon because it rained before seven in the morning. They ask you innumerable questions; they inform you of things you did not want to know. They go on for hours, and they leave you under the impression that they found you on the verge of suicide, and straightway "cheered you up." But you, yourself, discarding the mask of pleasure you per force had assumed while they were with you, thank Heaven upon your knees that they are gone. Only listeners are bored. People who are always talking are always pleased with themselves. And the people who never sought the mental clarification of solitude are never silent. Their conversation becomes quite mechanical at last. These people always profess to love their fellow-creatures, and pride themselves upon having "hosts of friends." Life for them is scarcely to be considered worth living if fate forces them to spend a few days absolutely by themselves. They have no resources. Their dreams fled when they put up their hair. They exist from hour to hour in the hopeful expectancy of running across someone to whom to relate the trivialities of their day.