The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.
~ Mark Twain, 1835 – 1910
Loneliness. Otherwise known in thesaurology as – anguish, dejection, despair, gloom, melancholy, misery, mourning, sadness, sorrow, woe, wretchedness.
I guarantee we all feel it, some more than others, some all the time. For some it’s life changing, for others life ending. We use it to spur ourselves to get involved with another, with others, join causes, have children, save animals, voice opinions and change ourselves to fit in. Though it seems to me, as a race we are more lonely than ever. Our technologically advanced age has only diminished our well being, communication skills, and perhaps our very humanity.
Humans are mammals, social beings who function best in communities and families, surrounded by those we are closest to by blood, cause and territory. However as things change, particularly in Western society, we pull away from the idea that ‘it takes a village …’ and open ourselves up to the congenital loneliness that comes from not living side by side, with the support of others who care about our well being. We all suffer from the consequences, the young, the old, parents with no time, kids with no grandparents (real or borrowed). The elderly age in homes and babies are in 14 hour day care, kids come home from school to empty houses and eat takeaway in separate rooms ….
A logical question would be “how can the business of life and all that it now takes to run a home, family or juggle work and play be lonely?” After all we hang with our kids, work colleagues, spouses, mates and the internet keeps us fed with what others are doing – we “connect” don’t we? We are hardly ever alone… so many say “how wonderful it would be to get five minutes to myself…” And therein lies the deceit we live everyday. We don’t want to be alone …
Why don’t we take this precious 5 minutes – is it truly not possible? Would our life and schedules be ruined if we did? Of course it’s not really about actually having the time, it’s something we say as a joke, to justify our busyness. To prove we are successful people, that we are doing all we can to bring happiness and fulfillment to us and others. That real “me time” is a sacrifice we are willing to make for our family and friends.
Most truly though, we say it to keep away from that which we fear most. To be not-busy and find ourselves empty, to realise that we are broken and ‘out there’ can’t fix ‘in here’.
For most people, spending 5 minutes in silence, with only our thoughts for company is more frightening that being assaulted by the TV, the kids, work schedules and Facebook. This loneliness has no external cause, no cure in others. It screams across a chasm of questions … who are we, why are we here, and what next? And we dare not look over that divide, it’s clearly not safe.
To transform the emptiness of loneliness, to the fullness of aloneness. Ah, that is the secret of life.
~ Sunita Khosla
I have often wondered what would happen if the internet was suddenly gone. Of course the economic and financial issues would be catastrophic etc, but the true impact would be felt inside us. The sense of loss of connection, control and distraction that keeps us going. To be left with the deadly quiet of reality, would put Western society to a test of cosmic proportions.
Generally when people say they are ‘lonely’ they mean they want company. They want ‘another’ to hold their hand, listen to them, empathise, have fun with them. This loneliness is a separation inside us. A sundering of our supernatural parts, the isolation of one from the other within ourselves. An abandoned spirit wandering the halls of our inner lives looking for it’s soulmate.
When we get busy, as much as we want to believe it’s all about others… it’s not. Everything is more than partly about us – being there for a friend, helping the poor, working back, even choosing to have children with all the sacrifices that comes with parenting… is about us, avoiding our loneliness. I am not denying that human spirit can be generous and sacrificial, but there is nearly always a component that gives us what we want. Fulfillment of our deepest needs for companionship, value and love, disguised as all the things we do everyday.
The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.
~ Norman Cousins
When we spend time with someone because we are lonely, we are really just distracting ourselves from the fact that we are still lonely. Only when we are alone and not lonely at the same time, can we truly connect with others in a whole and positive way. Empowering them to depend on us less for their own distraction from loneliness. So all of us can seek within ourselves true fulfillment, without desire of, or debt to, another living being.
People who are lonely within, need to be their own best friend. To recognise that within themselves is their ‘other half’, their protector, empathiser and joy in life. We need to return home to ourselves.
How did we get here then – were we born lonely on the inside? Full of despair, gloom and woe? Is it simple enough to say “life happened”? Those who believe our spirits live on, may agree we can be born so, with unfinished business to seek out our wandering soul and reconnect. And perhaps by purely existing in human form, we will suffer this loneliness anyway. It’s an inevitable part of being human and just a matter of time. How can we hold on amidst such distraction, such attraction, without being tempted to leave and go play with ‘others’, thinking we can come back anytime and all will be well. Telling our souls to ‘mind house’, without harm ensuing.
We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.
~ Orson Welles, 1915-1985
Some of us are lucky enough to learn, even late in life, that we can never neglect ‘me’ without consequence, we cannot come and go as we please. We learn through all relationships with living beings that at the end of the day we really need to live fully within ourselves everyday. Peace with others is not attainable without inner peace, and certainly world peace is not possible without it. It’s only when we are fully at peace inside, that we see the bright city lights clearly.
One thing is constant and has the power to create or destroy – whether or not we are lonely without others, without things. Who we are inside, where it’s just us. This is where we face fundamental loneliness, and this is the only place we can cure it.
It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
~ Albert Einstein, 1879-1955