Loneliness in a World of 7.9 Billion People.
No, I’m not Byron; I am, yet,
Another choice for the sacred dole,
Like him — a persecuted soul,
But only of the Russian set.
I early start and end the whole,
And will not win the future days;
Like in an ocean, in my soul,
A cargo of lost hopes stays.
Who, oh, my ocean severe,
Could read all secrets in your scroll?
Who’ll tell the people my idea?
I’m God or no one at all!
No, I am not Byron by Mikhail Lermontov.
This essay will be read by no one. The bitter reality of being a writer who does not work for a large publication, but rather is self-published, is that I will likely never be read– not widely, at least. I get maybe a couple of reads per essay that I contribute to The Collector, a publication here in Medium. But, in general, all of my writing goes unnoticed.
Why, then, do I insist on banging my head against the wall of an immutable truth? The truth being, of course, that most writers live and die without having achieved anything of substance.
Loneliness is a very strange thing. In itself, it is always perceived like a contradiction in terms– a logical impossibility. For, is it not true that never has there been as many people in the earth as there are now? Statistically one would assume that it is easier than ever to meet with other people. But, the language of the assumption betrays its flaw. For even when I am with people, the odd and alienating fog of loneliness does not disperse. I don’t know how to describe the sensation of creeping loneliness that I feel when I am around people, except by saying that it is itself a paradox that carries with it all the destabilizing effects of contradiction. It hits like a fucking truck and it levels me almost completely.
The feeling is so destabilizing, in fact, that I, ironically, end up preferring my own company than risking the nausea that it evokes. Loneliness, when around other people, is eerie; its contradictory nature is uncanny– it chills your soul, if ever one has such a thing. In fact, it is in those moments of extraordinary alienation that I am closest to believing Descartes and his mind-body dualism, for then the real or illusory divide between what I see and what I experience internally is most dramatized.
But, once and again I take courage and I brave the company of other people. It is an immensely draining exercise, but it is one that, if kept with relentless discipline, can yield beautiful results. There is, however, the vestigial problem of intellectual or emotional loneliness. Of course, company can be intellectually or emotionally stimulating, but to say that it is fulfilling is a luxury that I’ve been afforded very few times. I most sound insufferable, and perhaps I have failed to considered that it is me not you, but I would be willing to bet that I am not stating something endemic to my experience. I’ve met a couple people here and there that I can say I “click” with. However, even this romantic idea of compatibility at first sight– of soulmates, perhaps– contradicts what I know. The best relationships I have are the product of time and work, and work over time. In other words, though it may probably be the case that not everyone is compatible, especially not in practice, I do believe that people can build relationships, not merely discover them.
This is, I believe, the reason that I pursue writing so relentlessly despite the bleak outlook that my ‘stats’ page delivers time and time again. Writing is not merely factual communication, but it is a life line, a desperate signaling flare to other people. It is an alternative form of communication that I take up in the hope of finding something which I very often lack.
It may also be, however, a cheat. I wish there was someone with whom I can talk to exclusively about the topics that I am interested in– and, in fact, I have had ‘intellectual’ friendships– however, most friendships are built on a more holistic base. A base of emotional care and deliberation and of shared experience; partnerships, in other words.
Still, the emotional toll that genuine connection takes on me is exhausting, especially on the early stages of a relationship. And, even well into a friendship or a partnership, it is not always a reliably smooth path. Relationships of any kind are complicated and I have many times ran the risk of becoming co-dependent. I think that people who are especially sensitive to, not only the beauty and rareness of connection, but the potent and almost dehumanizing pain of loneliness are most at risk of being hurt in any relationship. We are like a finely tuned, but often delusional, seismograph that panics at the thought of an emotional tremor which may predict, or even insinuate, a trend towards solitude.
I don’t want to stop writing. The moment my finger tip leaves the last key I will be left to my own devices in an empty room. Now, that is a terrifying thought.