When Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, settled on a title for her autobiography, it was "The Long Loneliness," in part a reference to the lover she lost for her faith, in part a reflection on the human condition. We all endure the long loneliness.
This came to me last weekend when the company of a special friend was denied me and I realized that I do not have many friends at all, despite living in the same city now for roughly 30 years.
Speaking with friends and mulling this over, I also realize that part of the reason is that I am overly critical. The vast majority of people are tedious: they talk about themselves, their possessions, their trips, their lifestyle and their work.
The friends one knew in college, those with whom one could talk about politics and philosophy until the wee hours while nursing beers warm, they are all gone. Maybe they never existed.
Deep in the human heart there is instead a gaping gnawing, living hole. A black hole that tells us that, in the end, we're all on our own.
Friends will call you when they want something, want to tell you something. We know that humanity is essentially self-interested.
Lovers may assuage the loneliness, but they will never fill it. I have a broken marriage as witness.
In the absence of a God, there is nothing to fill that void that is felt most acutely when we are alone and in need. As in the story of Jesus, we will all know the experience of being deserted by everyone.
The human loneliness explains a multitude of endeavors -- religion, love, literature and art, the search of riches and power and sex -- yet none of them ever overcome that sense of living without rhyme or reason, loveless, artless, without any real wealth or security in the end, questionably or temporarily attractive, in a word, alone.