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Single or Double—It Works Best Both Ways
Singleness and individuality have their merits, but perhaps the yearning for dimension pulls us from our individual pursuits into community.

Surfing the online singles scene (just for research, of course) I'm struck by two thoughts: there are more available singles in New Brunswick than I'd realized; and they all seem perfectly at ease in their singleness. So why seek someone else? Why not just be your own someone?

… paddling in synch with someone else would add an interesting dimension to the excursion.

Ah, the ying and the yang of life. Individuality has its merits; coupledom its charms. And we all—whether we are living life singularly or as part of a sprawling family—want it both ways.

This summer I've been appreciating singular, solitary pleasures. The first was the discovery of one, lone Lady Slipper plant growing on a mossy outcrop at the end of a woodland path. The delicate flower, its pink bell dramatic against dark green leaves, wasn't there last year when my brother and I cleared the trail. Next year, if the flower has managed to drop its seeds this season without the wind carrying them off, there may be two or even three Lady Slippers gracing the path. I'll appreciate them, but they won't bring me the same surprised delight as that singular plant. The delight will simply be of a different sort.

Another singular solitary pleasure came to me one morning as I paddled about a lake. I was alone in a single kayak, dipping one end of the paddle, then the other into the inky water. A kayak paddle is an interesting design—one long shaft with blades on each end. You can't dip both blades into the water at the same time; they are to be used singularly. But you need both to glide and steer your way across the lake. One paddle works doubly well.

At the end of my hour on the lake, still relishing in the pleasure of my solitary paddle, I commented to a friend that we needed a second kayak on the lake. That way, I explained, two people could explore together. Single paddling on a calm lake is soothing, but paddling in synch with someone else would add an interesting dimension to the excursion.

Perhaps the yearning for dimension is what pulls us from our individual pursuits into community. Shared experiences add layers to life that elude us when we go it alone. We may think we are finding ourselves when we spend extended time by ourselves but the picture that emerges isn't whole—we need to see ourselves in the context of others for that to happen.

This, I suppose, is why so many singles are looking to be a pair in the world of online dating. They may well appreciate their individuality, but they want the experience of relationship to add dimension to their lives. Dating, of course, isn't the only road into that other dimension. Friends, family, work colleagues—they all provide the yang that matches up to the ying in an individual life.

I'm grateful for the solitary pleasures this summer has provided. They've been quiet, and peaceful; they've left space for contemplation. But these singular happenings wouldn't seem so rich if I couldn't measure them against the other side of my life—the side that includes a crowd of friends digging into a pot of mussels, a couple of companions on a backwoods New Brunswick drive, a sister's conversation over morning coffee.

Single or double. I don't think we need to choose one or the other. I think we need to carve out space for one—and both. That's life at its singular best but in a double dose.

Lynda MacGibbon is a writer based in Riverview New Brunswick and the NB/PEI Director for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. This column first appeared in the Moncton Times & Transcript newspaper and on She can be reached at

Originally published in Moncton Times & Transcipt, Moncton, NB, July 31, 2004, and simultaneously on




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