“According to the literary theorist René Girard, we come to yearn for and eventually love those who are loved by others. I cannot confirm this from personal experience—I have a history of frustrated longings for objects and women who were palpably unavailable to me but of no particular interest to anyone else.
Love, it seems to me, is that condition in which one is most contentedly oneself. If this sounds paradoxical, remember Rilke’s admonition: love consists in leaving the loved one space to be themselves while providing the security within which that self may flourish. As a child, I always felt uneasy and a little constrained around people, my family in particular. Solitude was bliss, but not easily obtained. Being always felt stressful—wherever I was there was something to do, someone to please, a duty to be completed, a role inadequately fulfilled: something amiss. Becoming, on the other hand, was relief. I was never so happy as when I was going somewhere on my own, and the longer it took to get there, the better.
The technology, architecture, and working practices of a railway system fascinated me from the outset—I can describe even today the peculiarities of the separate London Underground lines and their station layouts, the heritage of different private companies in their early years. But I was never a “trainspotter.” Even when I graduated to solitary travel on the extensive network of British Railways’ Southern Region I never joined the enthusiastic bands of anorak-clad preteenage boys at the end of platforms, assiduously noting down the numbers of the passing trains. This seemed to me the most asinine of static pursuits—the point of a train was to get on it.”
–from “Historian’s Progress” by Tony Judt
found in The New York Review of Books (v LVII, n 4)