The Solitary Egotist Dilemma
Updated: Apr 22
In this post, I would like to tell the story of a student I once knew when we were at school but have not heard of since our graduation. To respect his anxiety for privacy, we'll call him Saul.
Saul was an extremely solitary, weird, and reluctant kid who even tried to escape from school a couple of times. He didn't like anyone, and likewise, no one paid much attention to him. In fact, he rarely studied, simply because he didn't want to. Nonetheless, he was an extremely intelligent individual, despite his lack of engagement with the world. He even didn't have a phone with him, or any social media accounts. When the school day was over, he went home, and no one heard from him until the next school day.
Whenever people talked to him, most of the time he chose to ignore them, and he spent most of his school days walking back and forth in either the classroom or outside of it. He didn't have any friends, as he didn't want to at all, and whenever group work was involved or any activity outside of school territory, he never took part in it (as far as I remember).
Saul was the most solitary man I ever got to know. I don't know what disorder he had, even, as we learned in a special needs class (which mainly consisted of people with autism like myself). Due to his complete devotion to abstaining from this world, he even refused to take any exams. When he did, he answered them as if they were a joke. For example, when he was asked to define the word "cult", he defined it as "a word with four letters."
It was no surprise, then, when I was the most successful student in the class while he was the most underperforming one, even though I wouldn't be surprised if I knew that he was more intelligent than myself.
Saul's case is particularly intriguing because, as a student, you are expected to take school seriously, but he did not. As we all did in our class, even those who were more reluctant in "normal" classes, at least completed assignments, whereas Saul did not. By the end of high school, his overall grade was five... five out of 100, which is probably an "E" grade in other countries.
If I were to imagine him today, I'd probably guess that he keeps living in his parents' home, unemployed, solitary, and in front of the computer all day, probably rarely getting out of the house or even interacting with anyone other than his parents (and siblings?).
Thinking about this retrospectively, I guess that our combined fates are pretty much the same. That's despite the important fact that I feel a deep need to contribute to the world, in the form of this site, while he does not.
That is what I mean by the "solitary egoist dilemma." if we think about it. Society at large does not care about you, does it? If you're sleeping in the streets all alone in the cold and don't get any help from welfare or from volunteers, then people will likely just ignore you and move on, similar to New York City, am I correct?
Beyond the potential you have as a human resource in the professional world and beyond the love of your family (and maybe friends), your existence in the larger world is likely to be minor. That is, unless you achieve public acclaim, which few people achieve in comparison to the total number of people on the planet. Should you die, you'll be missed only by those who truly care about you. Perhaps by those whose role in your funeral is religious, too. Once you're dead and the grieving has overcome your death, life goes on without you, like it always has (at least for most humans, of course).
When considering this, one may wonder, "Why should I contribute to a society that disregards my importance by default?" I bet that many adults today prefer to just live with their parents and, I don't know, play video games all day.
Beyond monetary survival, is there much need for an individual to contribute to society? Of course, society needs individuals to contribute to it, but only from their own perspective. It needs janitors, bus drivers, taxi drivers, factory workers, and so on. Aside from their jobs, society does not require their many, many parts in the large machine. Why?
Because unless you're a medical doctor, a brain surgeon, or have any other imperative role, you are expandable. Just like I am, just like Saul is, and just like many others, including some of my very own family members and perhaps his as well.
And yet, I got a full graduation diploma and some academic education, while he got none of it. So, if that's true, we're in the same boat him and I, other than the fact that I am more altruistic.
Thinking about it, if you are expandable in the eyes of society, why would you even desire society if you are a solitary man or woman by nature? What if your parents do not need extra hands to sustain the household?
What if you don't want a partner or a family of your own? What incentive is there, then, in contributing to a world that does not care about you if you're replaceable? (Of course, aside from monetary gain, which is necessary to survive in the modern world).
I know that I'm also expandable in my own field. There are other philosophers out there in the world. I'm not the only one, and this is not the only philosophy blog in the world.
If I ever wanted to, I could just shut it all down and live the rest of my life playing video games and sustaining my apartment and other needs with my welfare money. I know that practically, I could just live without guilt, like Saul probably does right now, and not much in this world would change.
And yet, unlike Saul, who is a zealot for his own privacy, I have other visions in mind. I am a conqueror. I want the world to acknowledge my existence not because I am narcissistic but because I have a deep, deep desire to contribute, as if it were my "destiny," to leave my mark on humanity.
I want to see, one day, far more views and far more thoughts created about what I have to say to the world at large. I want to see my ideas discussed, theories explored, and articles read every single day for the next hundreds of years, at minimum!!
Otherwise, what purpose would there be for my otherwise expandable existence? By sacrificing the serenity of solitude, there will be greatness. By laying low in the world, you'll lose a great deal of potential.