So, after the exhaust pipe fell off my car on Valentines Day, I was forced to have it repaired, which was horrible news for my wallet, but in effect has left me with a vehicle that’s actually safe to drive >10 miles at once. To celebrate, I drove to Philadelphia this past weekend to visit a friend!
Long solo car rides are perfect opportunities for semi-focused introspection, so I spent most of the trip down there pondering the causes and effects of isolation. Some of the most brilliant, creative individuals in human history have fallen somewhere on the hermit spectrum, so I was thinking about which came first. That’s it. No answer.
This was probably sparked by my own period of social hibernation over the past couple of months. I haven’t been a total shut-in, but definitely prefer to spend my free time obsessively reading, writing, self-reflecting, listening to music and watching The Fabric of the Cosmos on NOVA over and over again :)
Anyway, this topic was totally appropriate for the day, because my friend and I decided to take a tour of Eastern State Penitentiary, where the whole concept of solitary confinement originated!!!
This was my second time at ESP, but my first tour. I’ve gone to the Terror Behind the Walls haunted house, which is really awesome and highly recommended. My friend told me that they have a rockin’ audio tour narrated by one of my all-tome favorite weirdos, Steve Buscemi <3<3<3 We almost cried when we learned that the audio tour wasn’t available that day, but the actual flesh-and-bone guide was enthusiastic about his job and cute enough to distract my attention. I’ll have to go back again for Steve.
I honestly thought it would be scarier during the day than it was at night with a ton of zombies walking around. As many know, I’m legit afraid of ghosts. Like, I need to sleep with the lights on after seeing a Paranormal Activity commercial.. but even with the spooky, overcast sky, I was more focused on the history behind the building and the experimental rehabilitation institution it was initially designed to be.
Toward the end of the tour, our guide asked the group to think about which we would choose:
a) A relatively sanitary room with an hour of fresh air in a personal yard every day spent in complete isolation. No contact with other people at all, not even prison guards. No music. No speaking. The only book you got to read was the bible.
b) Overcrowded, nasty prison with a common outdoor area and much, much smaller rooms.
I thought about this, and I think I would go with choice a, just because I’m curious. I want to know how long it would take me to go completely crazy. I’ve gone to a few music festivals and developing countries, so I know I could handle overcrowded, unsanitary living conditions.
But even at my most reclusive moments, I’ve still been surrounded by people. I can only imagine the kind of freakiness that begins to unravel when a person is truly shut off from others, and I’m really intrigued by it. I kind of want to try sensory deprivation, as it seems like a safe way to experiment with this without catapulting myself into a place I’ll never come back from.
What would I do if I had nothing but a room and a bible? As I suggested to my friend, probably a lot of meditation and parkour.
Completely unrelated: I went for a 7.5 mile out & back flat run on Weds and was “lapped” by a pudgy dude
. Go ahead and laugh. I sure did. My legs are still sore, and I averaged a 9.5 min/mile. Did I mention this was flat? Why does it hurt so much to love?!
Freelance writer. Trail runner. Relentless savage.