“I don’t know what it is. . . . It’s like an awakeness in the world.”
We are told in the book of Genesis that it is not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). Aristotle, likewise, asserts that “man is, by nature, a political animal.” In direct contrast, however, is Jean-Paul Sartre’s infamous line that “hell is other people,” a line commonly hijacked from its original context and used as a slogan for introverts and cynics (Sartre himself was not as misanthropic as the line suggests). Nonetheless, taken together, these three statements suggest the inner tension that develops as we seek to fulfill our competing desires for solitude and companionship.
In his new novel The Lighthouse, Michael D. O’Brien explores this tension. Though shorter and to some extent lighter than many of his other books, The Lighthouse is no less masterful, and within its pages are insights no less profound.