The lone ranger would find himself in a desert-like landscape. With the bad guys hiding somewhere in an unknown place.
There’s a big difference between ‘being alone’ and ‘being lonely’. It’s perfectly possible to be alone, yet feel utterly content and at peace. Not a hint of loneliness to be found anywhere in one’s cells.
It’s also perfectly possible to be in the midst of a group, and feel utterly lonely.
Feeling lonely is not nice. And that is to put it mildly.
A wise man once challenged me in the most challenging of ways, and questioned my thinking on “home” versus “tumbleweed”. I wrote about it in my book.
The man asking this has a long beard which adds to his aura of wisdom; his eyes don’t just look, they see. ‘My home is where I am.’ I quickly glance away from his eyes and look at the back of Table Mountain.
My slick answer slides off his shoulders rapidly.
‘That is bullshit.’ He tries again. ‘Where is your home? That place where you can go in silence. That place where your roots stretch into the soil, deeper every day. Where you sense who you are, without knowing.’
I stub out my cigarette in an ashtray on the cast-iron table. ‘I can’t afford to grow roots – that would stop me from learning, from journeying. I don’t want to anchor myself.’
He remains silent. Looks at me. Plays with his beard. He points at some of the trees and bushes in his garden, and emphasises the beauty of the rays of light at this time of year. He tries to find his question.
‘When you travel, do you go towards something or do you go away?’
I roll a new cigarette, observe the sunrays as they cascade over leaves and look the man in the eye, acknowledging the sincerity of his question.
What do I need to do with it? What can I do with it?
I request a minute or two to listen for insights from inside me.
Only while interacting with others, a West African philosopher once wrote, do we learn about ourselves. Africa taught me the beauty of the grey scale, the subtle boundaries – always in flux – between pain and happiness, between accepting fate and the curse of apathy, the smell of rotting human corpses and the sound of whizzing bullets. Africa taught me about me.
‘When I travel, I leave a place where I can’t find answers and go to a place where I might find people who will possibly recognise my questions. And yet these travels no longer feel sufficient.’
I am on the road again.
For weeks, this time. Not sure how long it will last.
I feel tumbleweed. Uprooted.
An empty feeling in my stomach.