I pretty much live the life of a hermit these days, only seeing my brother and his family from time to time.
I used to think of hermits as people who went and lived on mountains because they wanted to get away from an overcrowded, busy, tiresome world. But now I suspect that they had probably been expelled from society for one reason or other, or maybe none at all. They didn’t want to live on top of mountains. There just wasn’t anywhere else they could live.
And yet, even if I have become a hermit, I feel that I have friends all over the world.
Never more so than today, with all the advice I’ve been offered about what new computer to buy or build.
It’s rather heart-warming. And it’s a strange new experience for me, to live more or less entirely alone, and yet to feel surrounded by far distant friends and well-wishers. In the past when I hardly knew anybody – as would happen from time to time, usually when I moved from one place to another – the isolation could be rather dispiriting. But these days I’m not in the least bit dispirited or depressed. I feel I know lots of people.
All the same, I’d like to be able to sit in a pub, and drink a pint of beer, and smoke a cigarette, and meet people face to face. But that’s not been possible since the smoking ban, now that a key element of relaxation and enjoyment has been forbidden, and I can only stand being inside a pub for half an hour maximum. They may as well have fixed upward-pointing spikes on all the seats inside pubs. And knowing them and their spiteful ways, they’re probably planning to do exactly that – as a ‘health measure’ to make people do some exercise, by getting them to immediately stand up again after sitting down for half a second.
All of which reminds me that I’m supposed to be writing the ISIS survey report. I spent January and early February mulling over the data, seeing what I could glean from it, and I now think I’ve learned all I can. It’s a matter of just putting it together, and publishing it – if I can stop myself from being diverted by stuff like DA14.
But in that respect I face one difficulty. I have a natural way of writing, and it’s the way I write this blog. It’s the same way that I wrote in the copious journal that I kept for many years (and still keep). It’s first person singular. And I find writing that way very easy. And that makes it rather hard to write in any other way. And yet most academic papers/reports/studies aren’t written that way. They tend to be third person impersonal. The ‘person’ very often completely vanishes.
And yet sometimes re-emerges. I remember reading a book about moral philosophy some years ago, which was rather dense and abstract and impersonal until on the last page, the author – some American academic – wrote that he’d been writing this book in his study at home, with his dog curled up asleep beside him, and a view of a forest in the distance out of the window. And with those few words, this dusty academic came alive, and real. He had a dog! There was a view from his window! Perhaps he drank coffee? Perhaps he smoked? I was enchanted.
A similar thing happened when some girl phoned about my gas bill a few weeks back. She apologised for having a bit of a cold, and for her voice being so nasal as to be hard to understand. And with that she became a person. And a person who had a bit of a cold. So when she phoned a few days later, I asked,
“Has your cold got better?”
“Oh, yes!” she replied brightly. “It was really pretty awful for a few days, but it’s much better now.”
And I was far more co-operative with her than I usually am with such people.
Anyway, if I could write the ISIS report the way I usually write, it would be easy to write. But, feeling that I should write impersonally, it looks hard to write. And so I’m thinking of including lots of pie charts and graphs, and let them do the talking, and keep my own written input to an impersonal minimum.
Anyway, I’m very much inclined to take up Bucko’s offer to build me a computer. And one of the reasons for that is that he’s one of us. He’s one of the blogging fraternity, who are all also people with their own personal foibles, and even their own personal coughs and colds, and perhaps even dogs curled up beside them. And I’d far rather hand money to one of us than one of them.