Read an excerpt from the diary

In these entries from 1968, Paul Horgan reflected on his loneliness as he approached age sixty-five and commented on the young hippies he observed on the streets of Aspen.

What is it in me—solitary in public places—which knows a sinking of the heart at overheard conversations between persons who are so intensely connected? The mere fact of their connection (on any level or subject, certainly not only amorous or sexual) is what makes my own relevance seem so precarious—and my faith, even, so full of qualified and imaginative vagaries, so many longings of permissive compromise. I remember once being sent to bed physically ill because I could not be a part of the off-hand dinner conversation of a couple—young, beautiful, articulate—at the next table, in a hotel restaurant in Corpus Christi, Texas. To be ready to die because a beautiful young man and a beautiful girl were not known to me, or did not want me with them! . . .

In 18 days I will be 65 years old. Aside from the wild, the offensive fact, I must recognize that I am no closer than ever in all these years to ease of connection with others obviously attracted to me, or at the very least neutral, pending my own revelation of interest.

I observe intentionally from afar, and by the very factor of this distance, I must feel—and remember—the more keenly than if I rushed to embrace.

With advancing age, conventionality overtakes youth; and then the possibility of love for its own sake (hors responsibility) progressively recedes; until, in old age, love's most pure self is the most clearly seen when it is most generally beyond reach. . . .

There is a prevailing air of self-flesh and self-sex absorption in the youth of this hour. They adore the sun which turns their skin into copper gold—their hair into gold filaments—their flesh into a deeply warmed organ or reminder of how dear and feeling-ful is their own substance. But we have the distinct impression that all this is only of internal interest—it exists to satisfy only itself, no one else; & within the faun and the naiad of the sun and the clay and the forest and the river resides only a high school or college brat, using the gestures of paganism only to match the images projected by advertising, film, and TV.

There is no grasp of the mortal responsibility of temptation which attends such self-conscious attention to the exploitation of personal beauty. The pagan and the puritan ache to join—but only in a kidding sense of visual tension. The wholesome have no moral right to be so ruinously beautiful. The ruinously beautiful have no right to be so basically wholesome. The moral dilemma embedded in this tension is helping to tear apart our youth, in public and private—not to mention our elders. . . .

This summer I reflect on the pros and cons of intermittent loneliness, mostly the cons, naturally, after brief demonstrations of companionship meaningful enough to make this termination or interruption keenly illustrative of ultimate certainties—proper to my time of life, though not necessarily welcome.