There are two kinds of loneliness. The obvious physical one of living on a deserted island, or being lost in the mountains, or in a shack in the desert, or in a boat in the middle of the ocean. Nobody around, that’s not so bad, it’s the idea that nobody is going to be around that gets you. You are on your own and that’s it, baby.
Loneliness in the middle of a big city, or a small town, is the kind that drives people to eye their razor blades, count their pills, or climb to a rooftop. There’s nothing worse than hearing the laughter from a party you weren’t invited to.
Loneliness and alone are not the same thing. I mentioned Abby Sunderland in my last post. She’s the 16-year-old sailing singlehanded around the world. In a recent post of her blog, http://soloround.blogspot.com , after rounding Cape Horn, she wrote about seeing land for the first time in two months, “It made me miss being on land a little bit… but not that much. I’m still very happy out here!” About as alone as you can get, but definitely not lonely.
At the other extreme, though it’s impossible to know for sure, was Donald Crowhurst. He participated in a singlehanded round the world sailing race in 1969. Instead of sailing round, he reported false positions and waited in the S Atlantic until the other contestants came round. The consensus seems to be he realized his deception would be found out and guilt and insanity cause him to step overboard and vanish. How lonely must he have been during those last days?
Obviously, loneliness is a state of mind. Two people in the same situation may have totally different feelings about it. One may be thinking, “Thank God none of those bazillion, yapping, nosey busybodies are anywhere around me. The other may be thinking, ” God, I wish somebody would talk to me even if it’s that old curmudgeon on the other side of the valley who wants nothing to do with people.”
Isolation can happen anywhere. Just ask any shy person. There’s nothing worse than being a shy introvert in a room full of extroverts. Especially when the extroverts haven’t a clue what the introvert is feeling. Not that all introverts are shy. Some simply prefer their own company to others. The conversation is always more interesting.
Loneliness should not be confused with aloneness. Aloneness is a choice. Loneliness is not. It might be caused by the sufferers own shyness or fear. Or by circumstances beyond their control; shipwrecked, lost, not knowing the language, all your friends are dying faster than you can make new ones, criminal intent to isolate you and pretend to be your friend so as to con you out of your money or murder you with nobody noticing, or both.
All the reasons the make people lonely can be mitigated by a caring, concerned, observant extrovert willing and able to help a shy person out. Unless the person is shipwrecked, then your name has to be Friday.
What if you were new to a city where you didn’t speak the language, and didn’t know anybody, and you were lonely and afraid and needed a friend. And you found the one you needed; kind, smart, attractive, and needing you as much as you needed him/her. And you nurtured and loved each other so much you had to start a restaurant called the Lonely Hearts Cafe to help those that, like you, needed a friend. And the happiness and tragedy that came from that cafe was legendary. What characters might you meet, what stories might they tell, in the back room after closing, maybe to a new employee who needed just such a place?
What if you were new to a city where you didn’t speak the language, and didn’t know anybody, and you were lonely and afraid and needed a friend? And you found the one you needed; kind, smart, attractive, and needing you as much as you needed him/her–and someone took that person you loved–away? What would you do with your grief and anger? How would you use the loneliness that cloaked you like a gray fog. Maybe to remove yourself from the restraints of society, to do as you will, with no thoughts to consequences. Maybe you can think only of escape, leaving the city, wandering the world, trailing the contagion of your despair like a typhoid Mary of loneliness, until you find yourself deep in a jungle or high in bleak mountains where you find the solitude you’ve been unconsciously seeking. That place where you can let go of breath and be free of the exquisite loneliness you’ve come to embrace as the manner of your life. And What If as you exhaled that last painful breath, and that gray cloak rose into the heights, it was that cloak that guided the one you thought lost, one who at that moment, knowing of the incredible pain you carried, was climbing up to you with the sole intent of reaching into you and removing the grief that had hardened your heart for so long. Would they reach you in time to replace that last breath, or would the two of you be together forever high up on that mountain or in that deep jungle hideaway.
Or What If that person above turned their grief and anger to revenge. Maybe the ones who took away your happiness were cops, corrupt or not. Maybe you’d turn your loneliness not to the actual perpetrators, but to the ones they love. One by one you take a family member, a friend, a pet, always leaving a clear message — As long as you live, your loved ones are not safe. How would those people, whether cops or criminals, react? Run, fight, hide? Which of them would take their own life to save their families, which would save themselves. How far would they go to stop an implacable heartbroken killer. And you, would the possibility of new love, maybe from a potential victim, be enough to stop your mission of revenge?
What if you lost your spouse. What if you had money, but had lost your way. You were drifting, drinking, screwing around, not giving a damn, lonely. Maybe you felt that your pet was your only friend. Then it dies. Through your tears, you see a TV program about African, South American, Asian wildlife conservation and the next thing you know you’re there, helping out. Something happens, and you’re alone in the bush. That’s okay with you, the animals are your friends, until the poachers arrive. You fight them alone, they come after you. That’s when the loneliness kicks in. You’re wounded, scared, searching for help. Then, through your own efforts, no Deux ex Machina allowed, you meet the man or woman you needed to meet, not only for your present situation, but for your life. Is that caring, observant person you?
What if you were the only immortal? How familiar with loneliness would you be, watching the ones you love grow old and die. How many marriages and births would you be responsible for? How many funerals of loved ones could you stand to attend? Especially if your one true love was long dead and your long life was dedicated to reuniting with him/her, through either scientific or magical means.
What if you were an immortal, aware dog? What of history would you have seen and experienced that a human could not possibly imagine. How many masters would you have grieved for? How much time spent alone, abandoned, with no pack to belong to? Would you be able to communicate with other dogs? What depths of loneliness would you experience, aware, yet cut off from your own kind and unable to communicate with humans. Would you recognize an immortal human if you were lucky enough to meet one?
Question— Do you think an ordinary dog, born immortal, would over hundreds of years, become self-aware?
Help an introvert, immortal or not, today.