Alone in the crowdWhat’s the biggest crowd you’ve ever been in? Woodstock? A cattle herd? A Viking’s game or your cousin’s wedding?
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
What’s the biggest crowd you’ve ever been in? Woodstock? A cattle herd? A Viking’s game or your cousin’s wedding?
I’ve been at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena with 100,000 other people, the Rose Parade with a million or so and lived in the Los Angeles basin with 14 million more packed in like sardines in a can, wheat kernels in a truck box, granules on a sandy beach and Walmart shoppers on a Black Friday and still felt completely alone and maybe you have too. How is that possible?
There were people everywhere, laughing, yelling, swearing, coughing, drinking, puking, eating, dancing, prancing and romancing and I felt like I had no part in it, like I was sitting in the front row at a local theater watching it all on the big screen, powerless and invisible.
One time I flew into New York, when I was 26, took a cab to my new apartment in the city, saw a zillion people in every direction, realized that I didn’t know a single one of them and wondered how God could possibly care if I robbed a bank or helped Billy Graham preach a sermon at Yankee Stadium. Because what difference or impact would it make either way, with just little ole me amongst so many?
It’s a kind of weirdness, an aberration, abnormality and anomaly that exists when you are in one place while the one’s you love are in another, a physical barrier, which changes dramatically with time.
Much earlier, I had packed my midget black-and-white TV, jeans, boots, “undies” and ski equipment into my beat-up Chevy Impala on the last day of college and drifted down to Colorado, arriving in Denver just in time to be part of a rush hour traffic jam filled with a million cars with a million drivers trying to go in a million different directions.
For a kid that could see both ends from the center of his little northwestern North Dakota hometown, you’d think this would be intimidating. It wasn’t. It was an adventure and what I discovered was this: Your life can be changed in a matter of hours, minutes or seconds by people who don’t even know you and even more important, if you stick with it long term you’ll develop the capacity to be terribly happy.
You see, travel begets change, change begets adventure, adventure creates memories and memories are what build a meaningful life. It takes risk, guts, insight, speculation, adventurousness, audaciousness, boldness, fearlessness, nerve and rashness to milk the most out of life; gaining one that is filled with awkward hills and pristine valleys and not a flat line.
With time and a sense of adventure, even crowds can become familiar and some will become friends. Or as Baltimore-based Internet writer Megan Boyle once said, “Something was comforting about strangers…..it seemed like they would exist forever as the same, unknowable mass.”
Then again, as Australian author Melina Marchetta said in The Piper’s Son, “You can know someone all your life, like your parents or family, but I’ll tell you this, there’s an expression on their face, or a tone in their voice, or a way they walk, that you’ve never ever seen before. Like they’ve kept it hidden. Until their brother dies. Or their son. I remember those days and they were like these strangers and I wanted to say, Who are you people?”
Ultimately you must always occasionally return to the alone zone,” that place you visit from time to time, to make you think, to put your life into perspective, that state of mind that is defined by the dictionary as “a disquieting feeling of isolation.”
Most of us can sometimes be both the life of the party or a silent drone hovering in the corner. For me I tend more towards the latter because I am an observer who writes what he sees, not what he hears since I might forget what I hear but never what I see.
Then again, being alone is not bad, especially since …
Heroes are the people,
Who do what has to be done,
When it needs to be done,
Regardless of the consequences.
Because it’s during those alone times that you make the decision to do what’s right and must be done and that’s when your life, has its greatest impact.
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