Story type: Essay
Do you know those men and women who, to paraphrase Omar Khayyam, “come like treacle and like gall they go”? Well, it seems to me that life is rather like such as they. You may live for something, you may live for someone, but some time, sooner or later, you will be thrown back upon your own garden, the “inner plot” of land which you have cultivated in your own heart, to find what flowers thereon you may. Live for others, yes! but don’t live entirely for them. No. For if you live altogether for someone, it stands to reason that they cannot well live for you–or, if they can, then they don’t trouble, since you are such a certain asset in their lives. So they will begin to live for someone else. For this living for people is part of the nature of all hearts which are not the hearts of “turnips.” And then, what becomes of you? No, the wise man and woman keep a little for themselves, and that “little” is barred to permanent visitors. You may allow certain people to live therein for a while, but, as you value your own joy and happiness, your own independence and peace, do not deliver up to them the key. Keep that for yourself, so that, when the loneliness of life comes to you, as come it will–that is part of the tragedy of human life–you may not be utterly desolate, but possess some little ray of hope and delight and joy to illumine the shadows of loneliness when they fall across your path. And, for what they are worth to me for consolation, I thank Heaven now for the long years which I spent practically alone in the world, so far as congenial companionship went. Solitude drove me back upon myself, and since all of us must have some joy, natural or merely manufactured, in order to go on living, it forced me to cultivate other interests, which, perhaps, had I been happy, I should have neglected for brighter but more ephemeral joys. So I am not frightened of my own society, and that, though a rather dreary achievement, is by no means to be despised. It enables me to wander about alone and yet be happy; it permits me to travel with no one but my own company and the chance acquaintances I pick up en route, and yet not be entirely depressed. It helped me to achieve that philosophy which says: “If I may not have the ideal companion, then let me walk with no one but myself”–and that is the philosophy of a man who can never really feel lonely for a long time, even though he may be quite alone.