On loneliness

The spectre of loneliness stalks us, from the moment we gain consciousness to the moment we die.

For many of us, the spectre is held at bay by the company we keep, either of our own desire, or out of sheer necessity. Many relationships we forge are born of nothing more than a desire to drive the spectre one step back, to put one more person between us and the ghost.

Sometimes we make ourselves believe we have found a way to exorcise loneliness forever – a person, a job, a social life – all of these could make us forget, for a few moments, our aloneness in this world. And sometimes we pretend, because though we know in the depths of our souls that we are still alone, we like to play along with what is expected of us, and make our insincere vows just like everyone else.

But we are alone. Aloneness is our natural state: we are born like the tiger cub, whose maternal relationship lasts only until it is able to hunt alone, like the foal of the wild horse that will start to walk only a few moments after it is born, like the turtle that hatches in a strange land from an anonymous egg and has only itself to depend upon to feed and to procreate.

All of us fear the spectre of loneliness. We find a circle of friends, we get married, and we try hard to convince ourselves and to convince others that in the company of others, we find solace, peace, satisfaction, contentment.

That is a false contentment, for in all our lives – as accomplished as we may be – we have, in the end, no more to depend on for our happiness, no more to blame for our sadness, than us, ourselves. In pain we self-soothe; in pleasure we self-control; no joy from outside agencies is permanent, or even ultimately effective.

The biological instincts of reproduction and procreation drive us to seek a mate. The complex ordering of our human society drives us to find friends and companions. Neither is a substitute for the deep, permanent happiness that comes from realizing that birth was the goal, and by merely existence, we have already won the race.

This realization is our goal, our end in human life.

And the spectre of loneliness, for all its dreadfulness, is our friend; it teaches us that, in the end, all through, we are alone; that what will make us permanently happy can be reached on a path that can accommodate no more than one person abreast, and that for all the pleasure and courage that companionship gives us, the company of others is no more than a distraction from the realization of the self, the unitary, deeply individual self, that is the destiny of all of us to eventually confront.

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2 thoughts on “On loneliness

  1. I had an interesting thought recently…I felt like I was this bubble on the ocean experiencing various parts of the ocean. If I see the “past” all is left is memories of the path I came by. My vision of the future is blocked but all that is out there on the surface of the ocean. And one day the bubble bursts…and I am one with ocean again. So, I am the ocean trying to experience itself – well, anyways, the reason I thought of that when I read your post was that I think feeling lonely is a tool that nature gave us to experience certain things. This individualism, this loneliness, this “ego” is what gives us an identity.

    1. Reminds me of a quote from Sankaracharya’s Atma Bodha. Goes something like this: “Entire galaxies are merely bubbles in the ocean of the Self.”

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