Loneliness is an aspect of the human condition that has long shadowed consciousness. The duality, or multiplicity inherent in the thinking mind has created a divide and for many, building a bridge across this divide is a life’s work to which they are happy to dedicate themselves. How to meet the needs of both the deep self, or ‘I’ of consciousness and the activated self, or rather selves, needed for use within the caper of human life? Can that bridge ever be stable?
For others, it may be a clear case of choosing a side and forget the bridge. Social world or solitary world? Once decided, best to stay there, for venturing out and trying to live in both will only create discord. Doubt. Inexplicable sadness. And the complete lack of a map with which to go forward.
Solitary types it would seem are happy with their choices as long as they are not interrupted, and those who choose a life connected needn’t face aloneness in a busy connected, modern world.
Of course, this is all a lie.
The sage .. an image of a lonely person and the ideal of ancient philosophy manifests itself in two forms. Firstly, he feels loneliness as a defect of himself, as a flaw that does not allow him to be inside the life of a police or have friendly ties keeping from falling into solitude or isolation. Secondly, a lonely sage, striving to achieve identity with the Truth, conversing with the divine level of “I”.
There is no need to chart the entire history of loneliness here, the condition is suitably recurrent, allowing us to skip a few thousand years without much fuss.
Nor do we need to spend too much time considering the zeitgeist phrase; ” Has technology meant that we are more.. or less connected?”
I am interested though in what people are doing with their loneliness. When we have reached a point where we are staring at the Netflix menu from within a bubble of mindbending alienation and utter emptiness unable to stomach another moment of it , what are people doing next?
Is a dusty favourite book being dragged from a packing box, and if not read, (because loneliness can be quite draining and jumping into Dosteovsky may not actually be psychologically possible.)..but holding it, and turning it over, and flicking to a page in the middle and reading that.. maybe.
Are old records played? If not records, tapes? Cd’s perhaps… anything other than Spotify?
Is the telephone used as a talking device to have a long conversation, where communication filters down around tone of voice and pauses, revisiting the need to articulate clearly, maybe more than once, and even recap, after the accidental plummeting of the phone to the floor, or the need to pee.
Are diaries scribbled in, the same childhood doodles scratched out, night skies simply gazed at, guitars tuned too slowly and strummed with lacklustre, lines of poetry awkwardly obliged …
I’m not a loneliness expert. I’ve been in and out of it in my life. And I’m aware it is a defining experience in our world now. Google it and some kind of unsubstantiated source will tell you..
“Researchers have found that loneliness is just as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Lonely people are 50 percent more likely to die prematurely than those with healthy social relationships. ”
Be alert but not alarmed.
Ultimately loneliness so very personal, and means different things to different people. For some loneliness threatens status. Reputation. Self-esteem. For others it is a sign of failure. Let’s face it, when someone asks us how we are, we are hardly going to say..”.Uhh, really fucking gut wrenchingly lonely actually. ” No. Loneliness is desperate, needy and.. very old fashioned.
I admit I am at times an introverted, over-thinking, hypersensitive, melancholic type. I counter this with love. I thrive on loving interactions with the world and have always surrounded myself with them. The cooking, the dancing, the singing, the art making, the colourful clothes, the humour, the clumsy attempts at courage, the utter devotion to things I value, all is for love.
Loneliness then for me, is a place where I can’t give love. Where doors to that natural instinct have been closed or remain unsafe to open. Not giving love is like trying to hold the tide back. Its exhausting. A lot of us feel this way. Sometimes, loving the way you wish to is not possible. It can’t be helped.
But I do believe, that for the agnostic amongst us, in the absence of elders and oracles, wise woman and sages, this impulse can be better understood, and perhaps more lovingly embraced. In the spaces between the busy love making activities of life, the cooking, the singing, the dancing and thus… on the tired, defeated, broken days, can loneliness be part of that love?
To answer this question, perhaps we best consult the dusty old books …