Cho Seung-Hui, the busy Virginia Tech shooter, made a very bad impression on me. First, there was the killing spree. Second, he was a loner, a much reported fact that is destroying a perfectly romantic notion.

When I first read the interior monologue of detective Philip Marlowe, the fictional creation of Raymond Chandler, I found a kindred spirit. Marlowe, a knight-errant, walked down lonely streets, a man true to his own self. He was a rational mind against the insanity of the world. He didn’t ‘hang out.’ I fell in love with Jay Gatsby, the odd man out, haunted and melancholy, staring across the channel. When Pee Wee Herman looked into the blue eyes of a ravishing blonde and snarled, “I’m a loner, Dottie,” I said, “Me too!” These guys had feelings and thoughts that did not need the approval of others. Rather than giving the world an angry finger, they bowed quietly and said, “I’ll take it as I see it but not as you play it.”

I am a loner. Always have been. Since I was a kid. My head is my favorite place to be. In my mind I have lived many lives. I have danced across the universe and conquered continents. I have made fortunes and lost kingdoms. I’ve traveled the world, but my passport says that I have not gone very far.
My mind is a better world than the one I live in. I believe a giant ape can climb the Empire State Building. I have saved children from the deck of a burning freighter. I have flown high over Neverland. Nothing is impossible, yet I’m having a hell of a time trying to clear a paid parking ticket off my record.

As an artist, I am left to my own devices. Alone in my studio, a canvas evolves by itself. It’s my world. No one can touch it and there, no one can hurt me. My imagination provides its own Mapquest without direction from others. I stand alone upon the precipice of my studio, high above the turbulent fog of life. It’s a world where I’m safe.
To be alone is to be elitist. There is a snob appeal. To be honest, the voices in my head are far more entertaining that you.

Man in nature is a romantic notion. Men in nature are devastation. A man alone can create a dialogue with the world and himself. Truths are realized in unspoken languages. Nature inspires. I am reminded of Caspar David Friedrich’s famous painting, “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.” Man stands tall, high on a mountaintop, commanding the violent and unseen nature before him. Only alone can the world speak to him. Man is nature’s greatest achievement.
Conversely, you put a group of guys together and you get a campground full of McDonalds wrappers or a rainforest devoid of trees. These days, nature refuses to speak. Now you put a man alone in nature and you get Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber.

Hollywood, the bible of our morality, used to portray the loner as an iconic hero. I bought it hook line. James Dean did it well. Greta Garbo was a loner, but I’ve never seen her movies. Batman was never big on cocktail parties and I liked him for it. Somewhere Hollywood led me astray. They have marginalized the loner.
It is hard to find a thoughtful character, a seeker, one who introspects and reflects. Somerset Maugham wrote a beautiful book, ‘The Razor’s Edge’, about a man alone finding enlightenment. If Hollywood were to attempt the third remake they would turn it into a buddy picture. Somehow, Siddhartha become Travis Bickle. You’ll never find a loner in a TV sitcom; they just aren’t that funny.

Because of this, a few aberrations of our society get big media play. The antagonists of Columbine were loners. Pilot Mohamed Atta was a loner. The pederast down the block is a loner. To a gullible public the evidence appears overwhelming. I worry about a backlash. Being alone used to be transcendent, an inspired reflection. Today, time alone insinuates that you are packing shell casings and downloading kiddie-porn.
Not all mass murderers are loners. Hitler certainly liked stadium-sized spectaculars. Jim Jones served Kool-Aid at his last block party. Charlie Manson never surfed alone.

The Fourth Estate tells me its bad to be alone yet they are encouraging me to do so. If I am on the Internet, am I alone? My best friend is a Playstation. How many people can watch a cell phone TV?

If we get another shooter anytime soon I’m gonna have to start socializing more. The general public is becoming prejudiced against those who prefer their own company. Artists have never been more suspect than before. I’m afraid of the stigma. Must a lone wolf now run with the pack? Does a group show send a better signal than a solo show? Are we safer in a movement with numbers? Alone must mean insane.

GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist. His visual and literary works can be found at