Friday, October 13, 2006

The Fear of Loneliness

Just saw the movie "Because of Winn-Dixie." It's the story of a motherless young girl and her father who have just moved to yet another new town. She is lonely until she finds a stray dog that lead her to unlikely friends, and bring together this motley group of similarly lonely souls. While the actual movie itself was OK, the topic of loneliness was addressed well.

There are a few friends who have recently been through divorces. All in their twenties. While the divorces were ugly, now that they are alone, they find themselves very lonely and find it difficult to readjust to a single person life. Then there are other friends who have never been married, but yearn to find that right person so they can get married, because then, "they'll never be alone."

Sometimes it seems like we spend so much of life trying to get away from this thing called "loneliness," that we'd rather do anything - find anyone, put up with anyone, look the other way, to stay away from this unknown. Yet what is loneliness? Although surrounded by people, we went through the pain of birth alone. And though the fortunate ones may be surrounded by loved ones on their deathbed, we all face death alone. Even during our lives, we work and live amongst so many people, and while we can share joys and sorrows with loved ones, the day to day, minute to minute experiences are experienced by only one person.

When did we develop this enormous fear of loneliness, and why? What exactly are we afraid of? What can we learn from those that do not fear but cherish being alone - the mystics and ordained, or even the lay people who draw their faith and energy from solitary communion with their spiritual tradition?

Early morning view from a cabin in Yellowstone park. Sepia is a wonderful medium.


Blogger ipanema said...

This is a beautiful post, always learning. Lonelines is indeed eating some of us to extremes. Yes, there are single people who are so blessed by accepting themselves, however, those who have to 'unattach' themselves will truly find it difficult. It's sad but life must go on.

3:01 PM  
Blogger ipanema said...

By the way, that photo is beautiful, it goes well with your post. :)

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Moof said...

That's quite a post, WV. Beautifully written ... very thought provoking.

I believe that even those who are comfortable with their own company have a need for companionship. We weren't made to be alone.

I know several people with Asperger Syndrome ... independent, never share, never seem to get ruffled, never seem to need people around, always so self contained - self sufficient. Yet even they don't want to be alone ... the ones I know are either married, or want to eventually marry.

Everything about us is made for interaction with other human beings ...

I'm most comfortable around those I can share a peaceful silence with ... but I want to know that they're there ...

You mention the mystics and the ordained ...

The ordained used to live in community ... even those who took a vow of silence had time with their community, daily. Mystics ... if we are to believe what they believe ... are not alone. They are away from human interaction because they want to spend themselves on interaction with their deity. They don't think of themselves as "alone."

But then again, "loneliness" and "being alone" are not the same thing. You can be in a crowd of people ... and be very lonely ... or spend a few weeks by yourself and not experience a moment of loneliness for the entire duration.

It's a subject that would be hard to exhaust, and is really beyond the scope of this little comment.

Excellent post, though. Sorry I tried to tack a tome to the bottom of it! ;o)

5:22 PM  
Blogger always learning said...

Ipanema - so true. For those of us not yet attached (and quite happily so!) seeing these friends go through divorce really makes one think twice about this institution known as marriage. And reminds that we need to be careful in choosing that potential partner! As for the picture, early morning in Yellowstone is like another world - misty, quiet, just the right kind of place to think :)

Moof - I agree that we are social beings and were made for companionship. That companionship may be with another human, our spiritual beliefs, or sometimes, beloved pets who fill the spot with unconditional love. Also agree that "being with someone" does not make one less lonely. Perhaps that's where many of us go wrong, that we hold on to a belief that if we just find "the one," loneliness will be a distant memory.

Whoever we choose to spend our lives with, I think it's important to trace the root of our loneliness. Sometimes, one can see that it's due to an altered view of our world...

The ordained (I believe - ?) still live in community. At least the monks and nuns. But they, compared to the rest of us, probably spend more time "alone" in meditation or service. They help remind us that solitude can be an invaluable opportunity for spiritual growth.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Moof said...

Monks and nuns - there are still cloistered and semicloistered communities, but many of them no longer live in what we would think of as a "community."

There are so few vocations that the communities that remain - here in the States, at least - are inexorably closing down. The elderly have no younger religious to take care of them, and it follows that there's also no way to keep the buildings going when only the elderly remain.

Many of those who were still living in community in the 70's, when things began to really fall apart, are now sharing apartments, dressed in regular clothes, and working as teachers or in parishes.

There are still a few thriving communities left though, but they're few and far between now.

Situations could be different in other countries.

Just a bit of trivia for you, since you mentioned it ... with a question mark.

I'll behave now ... ;o)

10:53 PM  
Blogger always learning said...

thanks for the info Moof. Wasn't aware that this was the case here. In other countries, fortunately there are still religious communities to carry on that way of live.

And again, am amazed at what you know :) From blogging to the state of monkhood in America, you never cease to amaze :D

9:28 PM  

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