Seven Billion Lonely People

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Top of the Rock – New York City

I got up and read the news like everyone else did. I stumbled towards the toilet realizing in a wash of feelings, that another bright light had gone out of the world while I slept.

I felt a little lonelier than I had when I had gone to sleep the night before.

Anthony, Kate, Robin, my uncle Peter, so many other bright lights gone away leaving the night sky a little colder for the lack of their bright lights in it.

We are so damn lonely, we make it thirty two years, fifty five years, sixty one years, and we can’t make it another day. It compiles in remarkable abundance in some pit within us until it consumes us. 

I hate loneliness for what it compels within us but even more so for the mystery of it all.

Patience Camp – Ernest Shackleton

Why are we so lonely?

There are seven point four billion of us parading around this little rock.

Back when we were just a few, when we would’ve been blown out of existence with just a breath of wind, we were not so lonely. We recognized our family members by smell and worried mostly about where our next meal would come from.

There was no concept of loneliness other than the purest form of it, which was separation from community. Because that kind of separation would’ve been death itself.

When we grew in numbers and settled down around the things we were able to cultivate, for a long, long time, community was essential.

Times Square

For the great chunk of human existence, we lived together and interacted around the core biological aspects of our species. Food, sex and peace.

Energy, recruitment and security have driven us to such great heights. We’ve successfully conquered the planet, literally dominating it completely.

We are at the top of the food chain, able to modify everything in existence to serve our purpose.

The most successful biological entities in the known universe.

And we are dying from loneliness.

There are days when I look around the beauty of this world and the diversity of life within it and think how can we be so lonely that it’s killing us.

Tiffany’s NY

But there are other days, seemingly more frequent for me, when I look around and watch a bunch of entitled people throwing shit in the form of words at each other across invisible wires, holed up in front of screens blaring propaganda and leaders marshalling for war to fill their coffers with papers that say how much they’re worth in the form of whatever money is.

We’ve cured everything but cancer, and loneliness is cancer.

It eats us up from within from the moment we’re born in hospital beds. But why some of us can live with it until we die in those same hospital beds, I do not understand.

I am not a lonely person. I thrive in a community of people. Be it small or large, I’m most happy when I’m around others. I love the moments of solitude, because it makes me appreciate those other moments in life when I’m overwhelmed by humanity.

But every time I step outside my door, I’m confronted by loneliness. Some of the loneliest experiences of my life were riding the trains from the suburbs where I lived into downtown Chicago for work.

The underground

I’ve felt loneliness creep up on me unexpectedly in Spenard, Alaska and in a busy newsroom in Missoula, Montana. I’ve felt its presence in my living room, surrounded by my family and laying in my bed with my wife so close to me I could feel her warmth on my arm.

I can see loneliness on the edges of my vision. Crouching, as it does, waiting to catch us in a moment of despair.

Some religions teach that we were created for community, for communion with our creator. Which makes me wonder if God was lonely.

Which makes me wonder if loneliness is bigger and older than everything else in existence, a fundamental force in the universe.

Which often leads me to thoughts of connecting with other people and invitations to join me at the local pub for a long, rainy afternoon discussion about the politics of lonely.

And perhaps that’s a solution, not the solution. You avoid it like it’s death itself. You run away from lonely, never let it catch you, until it sits there at the edges of your vision as you stay in a hospital bed for the second time in your long life.

Maybe loneliness is just trying to fill itself up with all of us.

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