Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dispatch from Camp Lonelyhearts

Camp Lonelyhearts. Photo by khowaga1, Flickr

Captain’s Log, Feb. 14, 20-- CE
Elevation: 2,000 ft. above sea level

Location: Yurt

The natives grow more restless by the day. All they’ve had to sustain them recently in terms of interpersonal communications are a few vague trail markers and some generic clapping at the last tribal dance that could have applied to anyone in attendance. These brief encounters have not satisfied their need for emotional connection or moved them anywhere closer to their stated goals of finding a proper mate. (Note: We must assume they stated these goals. In truth, we witnessed only stick-thumping, grunting, and some rather rude hand gestures.)

They seem to be in a state of constant irritation, unmitigated by the obvious fact that they are surrounded by a close-knit community who supports and cares for them and would never let them go hungry or be dragged off by a wild boar without at least some semblance of a fight. Some of the more irritated members have taken to sitting on distant hilltops and gazing for hours, chin in hand, at the empty, dusty vistas. Others eat whatever food they can reach, no matter how short village supplies are, while others lock themselves away in their huts during daylight hours, rarely to be seen or heard.

When one such self-isolator left for a brief trip to the loo, we confiscated a small stack of crude stick figure drawings that, with their angry expressions and depiction of tears flooding from eye sockets, appeared to indicate angst. We attempted to communicate with her about the drawings upon her return, but she burst into an incomprehensible screaming rage and ran back into the hut alone. Had there been a door, we’re certain she would have slammed it.

In pursuit. Photo by Wyoming_Jackrabbit, Flickr

In what is likely a breach of scientific ethics, we have tried at various intervals to match-make tribe members, urging them to recognize the complementary mates in their midst. Alas, our efforts have borne scant fruit. It strikes us that the closer a tribe member is to another, the harder it becomes for him or her to recognize the inherent compatibility of their pairing. They will pine for the other and exhibit jealous behavior if the other should take up with another potential mate; yet if the other does express desire, he (or she) is immediately, coldly spurned. It could very well be our language barrier presenting itself, but the natives don’t seem to know what they want. As of this entry, we have not arrived at any clear conclusion about their reasoning.

Some members have successfully paired off on their own – “success” in this case ranging from “actively engaged with and attentive to one’s mate” to “tolerating them.” Occasionally we observe the pairs interceding in the affairs of those they care most about, such as inviting the interested person and his/her object of interest along on the same hunting party, wherein the paired couples, with poor acting skills, stay a notable and obvious 10 feet away from the as-yet-unpaired couple and whisper back and forth to each other, presumably about how well they’re getting on (or not). It has been a consistent observation from our field staff that such outings rarely work, though efforts appear appreciated in the short term.

The cue for copulation. Photo by whl.travel, Flickr

Even in the absence of lifelong mating, a fair amount of copulation happens throughout the village. This frequent and persistent activity seems to happen with or without stated commitment, and in fact seems to have a frequency level inversely proportional to the commitment level. (We’re still analyzing the data and hope to report more conclusive results at next entry.) Strangely, the heightened level of copulation, particularly on feast days and in cold weather, does not seem to markedly increase the natives’ long-term happiness, while the paired couples -- whom we regularly observe sitting outside their huts staring at sunsets and munching nuts -- appear blissful and content. The research team intends to probe further into this inexplicable phenomenon, tentatively titled the “Copulation < Nuts Paradigm.”

Of late, the natives appear to be moving toward a less personal system where they can anonymously share information with a disinterested and automated third party – in this case, a baboon – who then ascertains through a mysterious but undoubtedly rigorous and not at all random process which participant might fit well with another. To date, one out of sixteen attempted couples has permanently mated. The rest continue to visit the baboon; they appear hopeful and only mildly panicked.

Prayer #272: Love Alone

To be lonely is to be without company. To feel cut off. Apart.

To be alone, however, can mean to be incomparable. Unique. Separated from others, but in a way that distinguishes you.

How fitting, then, that You alone ensure I will never be lonely. You alone are love.

Amen.

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