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Being alone and dead as an acceptable lifestyle choice
March 11, 2008 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Life and death of an urban recluse Odd and beautiful newspaper story.
posted by Free word order! (41 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
How poignant, beautifully written.

This will be my fate.
posted by BridgetR at 10:24 AM on March 11, 2008


Excellent. This is me, damn it.
posted by porn in the woods at 10:28 AM on March 11, 2008


Good post...thanks.....
posted by HuronBob at 10:31 AM on March 11, 2008


Wonderful post.
posted by Kloryne at 10:38 AM on March 11, 2008


Lucky bastard.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:40 AM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well done.
posted by OmieWise at 10:40 AM on March 11, 2008


It's weird that this makes me a bit homesick for Helsinki and the voluntary isolation and stress-free anonymity that it, more than any other city I've lived in, can provide. Especially as these are two of the main reasons I left some 6 years ago...
posted by slimepuppy at 10:45 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Great article.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:03 AM on March 11, 2008


I'd say the guy did pretty well. Living life on his own terms, until the very end.
posted by maxwelton at 11:12 AM on March 11, 2008


How did they find out some of these details? For instance, dust beginning to settle even before he died.
posted by DU at 11:14 AM on March 11, 2008


best of the web indeed.

I have the creeping notion that his fate is what many of us fear may be our own. So many of us seem to have this reclusive gene that pushes towards a life of isolation and anxiety. It's the voice in the back of your head, saying "don't go out. There's people out there, and you'd have to deal with them. Stay in, watch tv, read a book. It'd be so much easier."

I fight against that voice every day. Most days I win, some days I lose, but the battle gets easier over time. And I'll tell you, I've NEVER regretted going out, being with people, making connections, having new experiences. This man may have been happy in his quiet little world, but I think it's only because he never really experienced the alternative.
posted by Parannoyed at 11:14 AM on March 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


That was excellent. A bit presumptuous at times, perhaps, but beautiful all the same.
posted by Acey at 11:27 AM on March 11, 2008


Parannoyed: This man may have been happy in his quiet little world, but I think it's only because he never really experienced the alternative.

Perhaps. But then again, he was sociable at work, led classes and seminars. In his free time earlier, he liked dancing at nightclubs. One can certainly take the position that doesn't really count as the alternative, either by quality (he never really made connections, he never really had new experiences) or quantity (he may have had some, but not healthy enough), but it seems to me that's a plunge straight into No True Scotsman territory.

Some people are out and about, busy busy busy, and happy and meaningfully fulfilled that way and couldn't be any other way. Some are absolutely miserable with suffering inside and you'd never guess it at the acquaintance level. Some people are recluses, and happy and meaningfully fulfilled that way--and some are miserable. And to be fair, much of the time you'd never know it. So perhaps this fellow was one of their tribe. And quite possibly, he wasn't.

It's the age-old introvert-vs-extrovert chasm of misunderstanding, written to extreme. The truly happy on both sides slide easily into blind spots in empathy that make them baffled and unable to understand how people can be happy alone, or happy in all that crowding and noise, depending which side of the fence they're looking over.
posted by Drastic at 11:30 AM on March 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


In actual fact he HAD once been to Sweden, but it did not inspire any great interest: he felt that things there were much of a muchness with life in Finland.

I hope that this is simply beautiful prose, and not a translation artifact.

Parannoyed: "this reclusive gene that pushes towards a life of isolation and anxiety. It's the voice in the back of your head, saying "don't go out. There's people out there, and you'd have to deal with them. Stay in, watch tv, read a book. It'd be so much easier."

I fight against that voice every day. Most days I win, some days I lose, but the battle gets easier over time. And I'll tell you, I've NEVER regretted going out, being with people, making connections, having new experiences.
"

I think many people on Metafilter are the same way. I know I am. I'm frequently reminded of my father's words to me when I was reluctant to go to activities, or was too depressed to leave the house: "Half of life is just showing up." That is, you can't have experiences unless you are out in the world and seeing people. It has served me well, though it is a battle.
posted by lostburner at 11:38 AM on March 11, 2008


I can't help but think that if this had happened in America, the tone of this would be drastically different and far more OMG SO AWFUL!!!1111!!! THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU, ESPECIALLY SINGLE WOMEN, EVEN THOUGH THIS IS ABOUT A MAN!!!!

Yay for the mellow Finns, I guess.

Nice to know that Harry Burns was wrong about the smell drifting into the hallway...
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:39 AM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is similar to the story of the reclusive brothers, Homer and Langley Collyer. Langley Collyer was crushed to death when one of his own massive booby-traps made of junk fell on top of him. His blind brother, Homer Collyer, died of starvation, because Langley was unable to feed him.
posted by jonp72 at 11:41 AM on March 11, 2008


"much of a muchness" is an English (language, not country--although it may be that as well) idiom.
posted by DU at 11:44 AM on March 11, 2008


Nice article, thanks. (And yes, much of a muchness is an idiom/cliche, probably much better known in the UK than the US.)
posted by languagehat at 11:59 AM on March 11, 2008


My neighbor across the hall lived and died this way. I seldom saw her during the six years we lived in the same building; when I did she was always polite, but reserved. She never had visitors and had lived alone for 70 years when she died at 92.

She was found when the smell in the hallway became overwhelming. Apparently she had just made her morning tea: they found her body seated at her kitchen table with the cup in front of her.

I often think about her -- I didn't know her well, but there was something comforting in the face that she was able to live and die in the manner that she chose. I've lived alone by choice for much of my adult life, and from my current prospective I don't see choosing to change that. I don't consider myself to be particularly anti-social, but I do like spending a lot of time alone and feel lucky that I am able to.
posted by trip and a half at 12:13 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


"... in the fact..."
posted by trip and a half at 12:14 PM on March 11, 2008


er, and "perspective" Sheesh.
posted by trip and a half at 12:22 PM on March 11, 2008


See also: Aesop Rock - No Regrets (lyrics)
posted by slimepuppy at 12:30 PM on March 11, 2008


I am so jealous.
posted by Senator at 1:17 PM on March 11, 2008


"He wanted to be alone.This meant freedom to him - and yet in the end it became a prison for him,..."

Not buying that last part.

Anyway, good article. I assume my fate will be the same if I'm lucky.
posted by hojoki at 1:32 PM on March 11, 2008


On the Saturday morning Helsingin Sanomat was pushed through his letter-box and fell to the floor.

At first I thought that was the guy's name. And I was thinking, "Wait, someone pushed him through his letter box? Was he tiny?"
posted by miss lynnster at 1:33 PM on March 11, 2008


It seems as technology progresses it will become easier and easier to live these lives of recluseness. Autopay your bills online, get your groceries delivered, and work from home. I'm surprised more people aren't doing this. Or maybe they are, and we're not finding out until they die and rot their way into our attention.
posted by davidstandaford at 1:48 PM on March 11, 2008


Nicely written article. I do wonder if this will be be someday, and how long it will take before my cat eats my face!
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 2:23 PM on March 11, 2008


It seems as technology progresses it will become easier and easier to live these lives of recluseness. Autopay your bills online, get your groceries delivered, and work from home. I'm surprised more people aren't doing this.

Hi.
posted by birdie birdington at 2:43 PM on March 11, 2008


Okay, I've read the article now. And I sincerely thank you for posting it. It was written very well and it was very accepting of both the inherent tragedy of the situation as well as lack of tragedy -- this was the life he chose for himself. That's the key, I think.

To be overly honest, the article gave me a little bit of perspective I really, really needed right now. I might do an AskMe about it later. I'm in a place where I'm needing to figure out how best to handle someone who is in many ways similarly solitary and anti-social as they exit this world (and in other ways, not so similar). Sometimes she calls me hinting at suicide, knowing that I'll know just what tough love thing to say to talk her out of it... but last night for the first time I actually found myself stopping and wondering what the RIGHT thing was to say. Because after a while when someone has spent a life so focused on being alone, on just sitting around and waiting to die, are you really doing any kind of service to anyone by trying to convince them they should work hard to fight to stay alive and be alone and miserable as long as possible? If someone isn't the type of person who is drawn to see their days on this Earth as a gift and a joy to be shared, who are you to try to tell them they are? It's kind of delusional in a way. If they haven't embraced life for decades, they're not going to start embracing every day suddenly. If they feel people aren't worth investing in, and life isn't joyful and meant to be shared, who are you to tell them they're wrong? And that's hard. But it's their life, not ours.

Everyone makes their own choices as to how they want to live and sometimes how they want to die. But fuck, the position I am in feels awful and I'm not sure how to best shoulder it. It's like in order to try to respect that kind of a personality and keep yourself sane you have to become numb to things nobody should be numb to, to show respect for choices that you really don't relate to and wish to God were the polar opposite. Or do you? I really don't know. Either way, frankly, it's just sucky. But this article was graceful and peaceful and it made that man's choices seem a lot more poetic in a sense. So to see things from that perspective for a second was good for me. I guess I need to look at things from that kind of distance in order to see any kind of peace in them... it's harder to do when you're staring at the situation directly in the eyes.

Anyhow, more totally depressing info about me than anyone here needed to know. I guess I just had to get that out. It's been a fucking hard day.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:46 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Very well written, thoughtful without breaking into sentimentality.

I often think that the way we are using technology now is pushing people towards a life like this even if they wouldn't choose it in the way this man did. You can buy stuff online and never meet anyone in shops; you can reach out to the world as and when you like through the internet without ever speaking a word; you can pay your bills online as we have mentioned. If you do choose to venture out, you can go to the cinema without ever speaking to anyone if you buy your ticket in advance; you can scan and pay for your own groceries; fill and pay for your own petrol... and on it goes. And the more 'successful' you are and the more money you have, the easier all this and the more it is expected.
posted by StephenF at 2:51 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow. Four out of five fresh fish could easily end up that way. And happily enough, too. I like being alone.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:57 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


So many of us seem to have this reclusive gene that pushes towards a life of isolation and anxiety. It's the voice in the back of your head, saying "don't go out. There's people out there, and you'd have to deal with them. Stay in, watch tv, read a book. It'd be so much easier."

It depends on how annoying the people you'd have to deal with are. Here in Georgia, they're often very annoying, and many of them have "W the President" stickers on their cars even now.
posted by JHarris at 3:22 PM on March 11, 2008


I should probably add that I'm definitely a bit of a loner too. So sometimes it's a "there but by the grace of God go I" kinda thing...
posted by miss lynnster at 3:23 PM on March 11, 2008


Such a poignant piece. I wonder what made someone finally enter his apartment to find him and the piles of useless mail.
posted by bassjump at 5:52 PM on March 11, 2008


This will be my fate. I'm destined to be alone, since I have no interest in women yet I believe homosexuality is wrong.
posted by mike3k at 6:39 PM on March 11, 2008


.
posted by donovan at 7:32 PM on March 11, 2008


Related: Home (The Enormous Space by JG Ballard) Antony Sher is the suburbanite self-confined to his own home in this new adaptation of Ballard's short story.
Full-length film on YouTube
posted by ceibo at 7:39 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I HAVE LOTS OF FRIENDS!!!!!
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 9:51 PM on March 11, 2008


I was glad this article (mostly) didn't go the whole "He died alone it's so TRAGIC let's all feel bad for his sad little life" route. And I'm glad it pointed out that he was certainly capable of being social and he wasn't a misanthrope -- he just preferred being alone. I'm so irked by extroverts who project their needs and desires onto other people, although I don't hold it against them since they don't even realize they're doing it.

This was a comforting article.
posted by Nattie at 1:49 AM on March 12, 2008


Here is a similar story from the New York Times.
posted by Shebear at 7:58 AM on March 12, 2008


I need to stop telecommuting so much.
posted by mammary16 at 1:38 PM on March 12, 2008


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