My family and I just returned from Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. On the eastern valley below the towering peaks lies the old Stanley Hotel; a luxury getaway for well-to-dos of the early 1900's. Guests still flock to the hotel in summer, but mostly the old, haunted hotel lies dormant when brutal Colorado winters blanket everything in feet upon feet of snow. Roads to and from the park are often impassible after November.
Author Steven King stayed in the Stanley years ago. One typical winter, a snowstorm ravaged the area, closing off access to any roads and leaving King stranded at the hotel. Left alone with nothing but his thoughts (and what creepy thoughts they must have been), King began contemplating the effects of isolation on the mind. This experience became the inspiration for King's epic horror, The Shining. Jack Nicholson's unforgettable performance scares people to this day, and the isolation that caused his transformation from quirky author to madmen is a tale of the extremes that lie deep within the human psyche.
But I think that we all need a little isolation sometimes. Sure, we don't need to be trapped in a haunted hotel in the snowy mountains until we chase our loved ones with an axe, but we need to get away from the distractions of our lives from time to time. And isolation doesn't have to be isolation from every living creature, just from every distraction. My wife Clare is my favorite distraction from the hectic information overload of running an online business, so when I say I "get isolated", she is thankfully supportive and right by my side for our mountain escapes. Because, if there were anything worthy of complete focus for the entirety of my life, it would be my focus in loving Clare.
We need isolation more than ever because it's 2010 and our cell phones and computers give every little occurrence or emergency, be they from friends or coworkers, equal weight to distract our focus on the important things in our lives. Now matter how big or small the deal, we get a buzz, an email, a text or a phone call. We never get to sit and enjoy a moment or isolate ourselves long enough to really take a hard look at where we've been and where we want to (or should be) going. These much needed pauses in our stream of consciousness are what we need to make decisions; decisions that we often put off because we subconsciously want the distractions to keep keep us from making those hard choices in behavior that come from making a hard decision about our life's direction.
Do I stay on the current path or make a slight 10 degree turn? Or a 180? Is what I'm doing now what I wanted to be doing 2 years ago? Am I living in the moment or am I letting the little distractions total up to become my entire life? Does this isolation scare the hell out of me because it forces me to even ask these questions? Is the silence deafening?
I sometimes find myself so immersed in the day to day that it takes days of isolation just to begin to ask these questions, and days more to come up with any good answers. Thankfully there are a lot more mountains to get lost in in Colorado.