Alone With Mr. King

I have been told that solitary confinement is the closest humans have devised to hell-on-earth. This does not surprise me. My wife recently read of a man who had been thus confined while a POW, and that he and a neighboring prisoner had worked out a means of communication by tapping on the wall that separated their cells. This meager exchange became the prisoner’s lifeline, what helped him endure the eight years alone in a tiny chamber. Humans need to communicate with one another as badly as we need to dream. We are creatures that live by our imagination, and the world, and all the other creatures in it feed that imagination and is in turn fed by ours.

The insomniac’s bed is a kind of solitary confinement. If you choose not to wake your husband or wife or lover or call a friend, and if you are determined to stay in that bed until sleep comes, you are left only with the circling emptiness of the very thoughts which are keeping you from falling back asleep. I had just such a bout the other night. It was a particularly vicious round, following a particularly vicious day. I was not going to wake my wife, nor did I feel like pacing my darkened living room. Yet every time I tried to turn my attention toward any thought other than those that haunted me, I found myself, as if lost in a hedge maze, back in the center of the nightmare again.

And so I asked for help. The first person I thought to ask for help form was Martin Luther King. King began telling me that I had nothing whatsoever to worry about. He asked me what I wanted and I told him I wanted to help people and he said he felt certain I’d be able to do that but that being afraid was not going to help anyone and that there was nothing I needed to do other than what I already could do. He told me this over and over until I fell asleep.

I suppose I could have told myself these things, and I have in the past, but on this night I needed to hear it from someone else. I was tapping on the wall of my soul, and what I heard back reminded me that my loneliness was a misperception. Somewhere my imagination had come untethered and had begun to convince me I could neither hear nor be heard, and yet alone in my bed I was both.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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