Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Human Loneliness

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.


Anonymous said...

You are so right! - an excellent summary for anyone facing the truth.

thailandchani said...

Oh my gosh! I am so with you on this! Completely understand!

Household life doesn't hold much interest for me, yet it is the cornerstone of most people's lives.

It makes it harder to find a group of likeminded others, people we can relate to, people who have the *time* (for that matter) to engage in any kind of meaningful conversation.


Geneviève said...

Of course loneliness if human fate, overall for the last trip. One may expect from friends to be a crutch, they cannot be a real leg. And one needs to select carefully the crutch: some are beautiful but not reliable. And you, what kind of friend-crutch are you for others?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have always believed that all art comes from pain. Perhaps all of our soul's progress must also incubate in that dark place.

When we are contented, we coast along, aboebalike, on that cloud of happiness and learn nothing except how it feels to have our needs met. It is in the searching for answers to our perplexity and pain that we grow.

It seems ironic that as we struggle, lifetime after lifetime, to become better people, much of the struggle must be conducted away from other people, in the deep loneliness of our own souls. Our friends and family, no matter how much we love them, are but visitors in our lives and we in theirs.

Schmutzie said...

You nailed it. This is a feeling that I have since I was a small child.

Renegade Eye said...

That post is too close to home for me.

I found this blog at Louis Proyect's.


Anonymous said...

Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra trafitto da un raggio di sole: ed è subito sera.


Cecilieaux said...

Thank you all for the comments. I didn't realize I was expressing a sentiment so widely felt.

I hope even those who felt it too close enjoyed the post, so to speak.

Anne said...

I missed this the first time.

It rings a bell.