Friday Two Cents: Bowling Alone


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This past week I was reading a chapter for my religious studies class that I have to present next week. It analyses different factors that we as educators need to be aware of in the cultural landscape in Canada. There are many different issues such as Anxiety, Diversity, Family, Consumerism, Media and so on. Yet one concept made me stop and think about what I do and how maybe I do the exact same thing. It is called “Bowling Alone”.

‘Bowling Alone’

‘Bowling alone’ came from a political scientist named Robert Pullnam who wrote a book called Bowling Alone. It is a commentary about the lack of social engagement and interaction in North American society. He indicates that in the past 50 years, North Americans are dropping out of group activities at an alarming rate. The metaphor come from the fact that in the United States more than ever before people are going out and play bowling, yet leagues and teams have declined by 75%. People are deciding to ‘bowl alone’ or in groups of twos or threes. Pullman claims that this lack of community and care for each other has created a society that is disconnected with one another. That this is increasing the individual’s unhappiness, physical illness and could even lead to suicide.  

This simple passage made me think of a friend of mine who felt alone and detached from society. He was a nice person, genius level intelligence, interacted with me, his brother and other friends well, but he looked as if he felt like an outsider. Unfortunately, his isolation was so great in his mind that he took his own life. It has been years since he died but after reading this passage  I though of him and how even in a group of guys he felt alone. That moment truly made me think about what is important in my life. I have been trying to live every moment with a positive attitude and enjoy everyone who crosses my path. But this idea of ‘bowling alone’ made me think that there are times when I too want to be alone and do things alone.

This past week I went to see Dracula Untold in the theatres. I did ask a fiend or two if they wanted to see the movie but understandably they were busy with housework or other activities. I went alone and enjoyed the movie but in truth I would have enjoyed it more if I saw it with someone else.

Socializing is good for you.

This is very similar when I go to the pub and watch football. Most of my friends are busy and I do not want to take them from their families, so I go alone. Yet when I do go, I do engage in conversations with others; the servers, managers, bartenders or other customers. 

To further the idea of social interactions, I took a friend down to watch the World Cup games at the pub but she never was into the World Cup or thought about going to a pub to watch it. After her first experience she wanted to go back. I asked why because I truly was curious on what changed her mind. She said that she loved the shared experience with other people. During the game we talked to one another but we also engaged in conversations with other people in the pub. This shared group activity connected to her and I had to think that this is the reason why I enjoy going out to these events too.

 I guess this notion of ‘bowling alone’ is very present in our society, yet now that I am aware if this cultural issue what am I going to do about it. I cannot make people go out and interact with other people, but I can change my own thinking. I think when someone says if I want to go somewhere, instead of being standoffish, I’ll smile and say, “Yes I’d love to.” For Helen Keller said it best, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

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