“That being alone is not the same as being lonely? That being alone is a neutral state” (198)
Denny finds himself lonely frequently in The Art of Racing in the Rain. His wife Eve died suddenly of brain cancer, Denny was accused of rape, lost custody of his daughter, and was rarely able to see his dog. Despite his loneliness and grief, he fought on: in his mind, in the courtroom, and at work. Denny knew that as long as there was hope of seeing Zoe, he was not truly alone. And that even if Enzo cannot really speak back, he would never feel alone in Enzo’s presence. Enzo comes to understand this while he is with Zoe at her grandparent’s home.
He sees the twins as evil, spiteful creatures who, with no small amount of help, wrongfully took custody of Zoe. He sees how little they truly care about Zoe, commenting that they did not question why she did not eat all of her dinner, or the banana slices that she specifically asked for. He understands why Denny cannot give up. If he gives up, he will feel alone. If he feels alone he will think that all hope is lost and give up on regaining custody of Zoe, and if he gives up on getting Zoe back; Denny will finally break due to the loss of one of the last things he truly cares for, which would have unimaginable results on Zoe’s development as a child.
As the old saying goes, Hindsight is 20/20. There are many times in my life now where I can look back and see that I never truly have been alone. Many times I have been lonely, longing for more, or better friendships with my peers. But being alone would suggest that there is a time in which I did not have a friend of any sort, which simply isn’t true. Even in my darkest hours, I have always been able seek solace in my dog, who is most often a better friend than any I have. I can spill any dark secret or desire to him and not be judged, loathe myself, my failures, and grieve even the thought of ever leaving Chicago, and only be loved and cared for. I think the reason that The Art of Racing in the Rain resonates so well with me is because I want to believe that there is someone as clever and caring as Enzo inside my dog’s mind. And more recently I have been able to dissect his motives and actions, seeing that he does care for me as much as I care for him.
I know that when I’m gone at school, he sleeps away his day, lounging about and occasionally needing to go out. But every day when I arrive home at 4:45, his ecstatic behavior never fails to put a smile on my face, because I know that as long as he lives, I am never truly alone. As for being alone as a state of neutrality, in the physical, being alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We think of being alone as a greater phenomenon than one’s mood, but there are some days that we feel the need to isolate ourselves, collect our thoughts and just be with oneself. There are times when being alone is inherently beneficial, and there are also times when being alone is a sign of something with perhaps what we consider to be a more profound, if less jovial, meaning. Being alone is neither inherently good nor bad, and is thusly a neutral state.
Being lonely, or alone, is something that is hard to find at a macro level. You cannot apply this idea to a country, you cannot apply it to a state or government, or even a group of people. However, what you can find are the actions of individuals motivated by their loneliness, or idea of being alone, with global implications. I think the best, even if also quite harsh, example of this is the shockingly high suicide rate in China. Objectively speaking, suicide is a physical act that occurs when the amount of physical and or emotional pain one feels outweighs the mechanisms that person has to cope with his or her pain. What we find in China, is that the concept of the individual is often destroyed, and there is only your value to the state. This leads to near slave like working conditions in factories, leading workers to believe that it is “every man (woman and child) for himself (or herself)”.
These workers come to understand that there is no room for improvement in their lives, and they feel completely alone in an environment that requires great relationships to even survive. Their pain is their loneliness, which is created by governmental doctrines, which does not allow them to hope for better, causing them to end their lives out of spite, rather than live their miserable lives. Being dead is truly the most neutral of states, as there are times when many people would rather be dead than alive, and see death as a good thing, and usually most people see dying as a bad thing. But because there is nothing after death, no feeling, no emotion, it is truly the most neutral state of all, as everything that you once were becomes a blank canvas sitting inside of a body, now limp like a ragdoll. This is true of both natural death and violent death, life is colorful and opinionated, and death is true neutrality.