Where did all these boxes come from?
It seems like everything we do happens inside a box, inside a bigger box, inside a bigger box, ad infinitum. For most of us, there is nothing else. We eat in a box, sleep in a box, work in a box, anything and everything happens inside a box. By box I mean something created for the human species to occupy, take care of and expand. There are physical boxes outside of us, but there are also theoretical boxes inside of us. We must pay just as much attention to the latter kind.
I don’t see a problem with the box directly. Moreover, I see a problem with how much they seem to consume our lives. Not to mention how little action we take in making sure our boxes are clean, cared for and in need of nothing but more occupancy. Are there any alternatives to Box Living? What lays beyond The Box? Are there any benefits to escaping our boxy living patterns for a while?
After reading Michael Harris’ Solitude, I’ve begun analyzing every meager aspect of my daily life to see if perhaps there is something I am missing. Something beyond what I am currently experiencing. Something beyond the box of my current experience. This has lead me to a lot of interesting research on the powers of being alone. Truly alone. Similarly to Harris, I had initially thought I spent a lot of time alone. After reading his book I have come to the realization that I do not. Neither do most people. On average, we have not spent more than 12-24 hours alone our entire lives. No phones, no people, no communication with the outside world. Completely beyond the influence of boxes outside our immediate experience. This has some serious implications when one of the most important things in today’s society is our awareness. Platform creators are benefitting from our addictions to their technologies while we receive nothing in return. Solitude, the opposite of loneliness, can be an incredibly destructive force to media giants who only profit from our attention. If we are shutting off our phones and actually spending time by ourselves or with others, without phones, we are literally costing the media giants money. However, society has made time alone become something unwanted, a relic of old, boring times. In reality, it is necessary to our sanity in every single way. It allows us to flourish and blossom in a way previously unimaginable. It also deepens our connections with others. The ones who truly miss you will seek out your attention. The ones you miss will consume your thoughts until you must see them because the pain of missing them has become unbearable. This often makes me think of the conversation killer behind most modern day communications. You spend every waking hour talking with someone you’d like to get to know better online, Snapchat, Instagram, iMessage. Suddenly, upon meeting them in person you realize there is absolutely nothing to talk about because you each already know the little routines, interests and tastes of the other. Have a life, then talk to people online.
Artists and Creatives since the beginning of time have recognized and taken advantage of the benefits of being alone, truly alone. Maria Popova, Creator of brainpickings.org, summarizes the insights of incredible amounts of Creatives from every domain of learning. I could spend years going through all her content. Below is one of my favourite excerpts by British author Sara Maitland in ‘How to Be Alone: An Antidote to One of The Central Anxieties and Greatest Paradoxes of Our Time,’
We think we are unique, special and deserving of happiness, but we are terrified of being alone.
We are supposed now to seek our own fulfillment, to act on our feelings, to achieve authenticity and personal happiness — but mysteriously not do it on our own.
Today, more than ever, the charge carries both moral judgement and weak logic.
Nothing summarizes the Paradox of Solitude more than this short statement. Everything we are supposed to do must seemingly come from somewhere outside ourselves. When, in reality, the answers to all our problems lay within ourselves. It is as though our minds and bodies are begging for introspection. Instead, we numb ourselves beyond awareness. Mindlessly scrolling until we forget why it was we began to feel that pain in our chest. The thought of confronting a difficult thought is unbearable. Let alone not having anyone to tell about it.
This leads to a deeper conversation behind the meaning of our boxes. Essentially, our boxes are the primary things that we carry with us everyday. Their contents influence all our actions. This is simply another way of viewing the psychology behind our daily habits. However, beyond the boxes of the mind are the physical boxes that contain our ideas and actions. The reaction to our actions. These may be the rooms which we occupy, the buildings we inhabit, the countries we colonize, all boxes. The box is something we carry, meaning we identify with said box. Analyzing which boxes you identify with most is certainly a worthy thought. Considering the boxes control our actions, which influence life’s reactions, thus determining the outcome of our entire lives, they are important. What boxes do you identify with most? Think in terms of emotions and tangible things. Could you benefit from throwing these boxes away? Will the elimination of a couple boxes leave you feeling less cluttered and overwhelmed? In most cases, I guarantee it will. We could all benefit from a little spring cleaning in the attic of our minds every now and then.