Heaven or Hell?

The existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre famously said ‘Hell is other people’. The quote originated in his play No Exit with the scenario of hell being trapped for eternity in a room with two other people.

This quote came up in a recent Zoom conversation I had with an old friend. He immediately responded with the opposing claim that ‘Heaven is other people”. My friend is an urbanite who lives in a fashionable part of a big city and spends his days in restaurants, theatres and galleries. Although I used to enjoy that kind of lifestyle years ago I’ve since voted with my feet and moved to a village in a remote part of the UK. Here I prefer the company of wild birds and animals to people and I limit my social interactions to mostly online. I have turned into a recluse for sure!

So I kept thinking about why some of us seem to need people more than others. Which category do you fall into? Are other people hell or heaven to you or a bit of both? Is it simply a matter of introversion or extroversion or the conditions of our early childhood?

I was an only child and spent time in an isolation hospital at the age of three. So being alone feels safe to me. My happiest memories revolve around nature and my wonderful animals. Not people. My parents were unhappy dysfunctional people and I have survived two marriages to men who turned out to be abusers. This is a common experience. We often talk of humans being a social animal but just look at how many notable people became happy recluses in the later part of their lives:-

Brigitte Bardot, Carl Jung, Marlon Brando, Greta Garbo, Michael Jackson, Caryll Churchill, Paul Cezanne, Emily Dickinson, Arthur Scargill, Brian Wilson, Marcel Proust, Yves Saint Laurent, Harper Lee, Michelangelo, Stanley Kubrick…

So who are you? Do you prefer a mad social whirl or talking to trees?
ARE OTHER PEOPLE HEAVEN OR HELL?

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On Visiting John O’Groats

(This poem was published in Northwords Now some time ago.)

It can take most of your life to see
the large car park at the end of the line.
There are no instructions on arrival.
You circulate widdershins and search

the large car park at the end of the line
for a space that suits your personality.
You circulate widdershins and search
a familiar face in the day-glow crowds

for a space that suits your personality.
Some of them are smiling and holding
a familiar face in the day-glow crowds.
How many coffee beans in the jar?

Some of them are smiling and holding
hands. It’s important to guess
how many coffee beans in the jar.
Green sunglasses are optional, reflective

hands. It’s important to guess
how many miles to Land’s End?
Green sunglasses are optional, reflective
blisters on the soles of your feet.

How many miles to Land’s End?
You might travel naked and grateful for
blisters on the soles of your feet.
It can take most of your life to see.

NB:- John O’Groats is a popular tourist destination in the UK. It is located on the north coast of Scotland and is wrongly believed by some people to be mainland Britain’s most northerly point.

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Plot and Bash

Tackle it when thrust through the window.
Look difficult when leaving the control area,
keeping right. Drive gentle up the road.
There may be more than you.
It will contain the time and distance you.
Get to the first junction as somebody else
and set off again. Beware of blindly following.
He may know where he is going or he may not.
Keep trying to make the fit and keep an eye on.
You may end up lost off route, being baffled
on route! Alternative. Pull up, obstruct and try
the hand better than clutter. With practise
you will plot the move keeping at least two.
If you are baffled it may be your opinion
-miracles do happen and he may see. Do it
or provide the clue. As a last resort guess.
Don’t stumble on a code. Use a magnifier.
Don’t discard handouts, keep them safe.
Engineer the maps in alphabetical
to easily locate you in the night.

 

Note:- Plot and Bash is a navigation technique used within British Road Rallies during the 1980s.

 

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