Today, as I was sitting at work, and pulling reports in a solitary fashion, a fly eventually found its way to bother me since I was the only person in the room. Given that there was a lot of space, it appeared that for whatever reason this little fly wanted company and sought mine, even if I was busy and focused on other tasks. At first I was a bit bothered by the fly, but I figured that it was lonely and as it was not causing me too much trouble or doing anything too disturbing I decided to let it be. And so whatever the fly did after a while, it did not bother me except to remind me that even on a day in which I was as alone as could be, I was not entirely alone because there was something that for reasons only known to itself wanted my company. I’m not sure whether to feel flattered or bothered by that, but it was notable at least.
In the novel A Little Princess , Sara Crewe manages to befriend a family of rats in her attic after she is demoted from pampered show pupil to scullery maid in her loneliness. The ability to befriend such wide and diverse beings is generally the result of two qualities that do not go together. One of them is a rather intense sort of identification with other people and even animals, such that we can see in our mind’s eye how others are in a particularly empathetic light, which prevents us from acting in ways that are hostile. After all, what keep us thinking well about others is not their nice deeds towards us but our nice deeds towards us. We tend to think nicely of those people we are polite and gracious to. When we cease being loving towards others, we cease to think well of them, and not much that they can do can change that until we change our own behavior towards them.
The movie Castaway is an example of the other factor that leads people to befriend in unusual ways. After all, the need to befriend often depends a great deal on loneliness. To the extent that one’s social needs are met by a narrow band of people, there is little need to expand one’s radius of concern to a wider level. However, when that is not the case, one may have to extend one’s social network to volleyballs (named Wilson, for example) or to monkeys and birds and rats. Life is not always pleasant, and human beings were not designed to handle being lonely very well, so we ought to expect that in drastic times that people would find it necessary to engage in all kinds of behaviors (creating imaginary friends, as I did as a child) in order to cope with the burdens of the lives we live.
When I ponder little incidents of life like that today with the fly, I find myself wondering whether I should focus on the fact that it is remarkable and a little quirky that even the presence of a little fly would prompt me to think of the subject of solitude and how even humble insects seek to avoid it, or the fact that I would be so lonesome of a person that even the presence of a lonely fly would at least provide some sort of company on a day like today. Or perhaps both are true. Perhaps at times we have the capabilities that we need in order to cope with the circumstances that we face, and the sensitivity to do more than merely act unthinkingly in our circumstances but to reflect on them and understand them, and so view others with more understanding than would normally be the case. What good is our capacity for reflection, after all, if it is not to better understand what God thinks when He looks on us, or to show compassion and understanding to others? Otherwise, we are merely navel gazing, and what is the good in that?