Tomorrow, I’ll be getting on a plane and begin a week of something that is the completely opposite of what I do everyday. Here in Phoenix, time travels in terms of activities; not the kind of things that come to your mind when you hear the word activities. I speak to people outside and they say they indulge in activities like going to a bar or going to the mall or going to the movies. See, my activities include, sleeping, reading a book, listening to music and podcasts and playing video games. Occasionally, I cook something and then sometimes I talk to people over the phone and in case you had not noticed it yet, all of my activities exclude the need to get out of my apartment. My common list of activities also exclude any real need for other people, which sort of explains why the phone calls I make are too far and few in between. I head out to work and then come back to my lair and stay in. Like I said earlier, I will be getting on a plane tomorrow and heading to Denver. At Denver, over the next week, I will be surrounded by people. People who are close to me and, here, I will be staying in for work and then I will head out. The opposite of what I do everyday.
Although it feels terrible, loneliness is not a grave situation to be in, since, from my observation, it simply allows one to do things undisturbed. Frankly, to be occupied with something completely while being fully aware that one won’t be interrupted – I find it to be nurturing. But then there is a different kind of loneliness, which is surely grave in its manifestation. I read an essay called On Loneliness: Art, Life, and Fucking Human Beings that gave an in-depth and slightly unsettling account of things that people do when they find themselves enveloped with isolation. These are not the kind of separation from the population that one enjoys in a library, but the kind of loneliness that arises inevitably out of a sequence of certain life choices. The essay focuses on 5 books that deal with some aspect of this subject and at the very beginning – this is what got my attention in the first place – has a reference from David Foster Wallace. Here is a quote from that essay.
There are days when it seems to me that what it is to be a fucking human being is to be lonely; to be in this state of deep sadness and estrangement, and to know that there is something terribly wrong about this loneliness on the one hand, and on the other (in knowing the wrongness utterly), something also potentially beautiful.
The books listed in the essay deal with a range of emotions that people go through when they experience terrible isolation and they also focus on the coping mechanisms that they devise which are fascinating and seem to make them even more vulnerable. There is the book about Jeff Ragsdale, who felt so lonely, that he stuck up a few fliers with his phone number in New York City asking other people to call him to just talk about anything. Think about that for a second. Most of us consider our time to be too precious to even talk to people in our own lives and Jeff asked total strangers to call him up anytime of the day to just talk. As crazy it seems, it is also comforting to know, that he got so many calls and texts and emails that he was able to print a book about it. There is also this book about an author, Miranda July, who after getting stuck in a writer’s block, started interviewing random people she found on newspaper ads. Her story about how even though she found them fascinating they also made her feel creeped out, wanting to forcefully get away from them.
These real stories may seem like a drab on life as we expect it, lets face it it is not what is shown in any TV shows or movies, but for anyone who is willing to look beyond the average person or the normal adult life, these are examples of how people manage to pass the hour and days, weeks and years, one at a time. They simply find curious and creepy ways to make themselves vulnerable to get some degree of human contact which everyone craves for to a certain degree. This seems to be a universal aspiration at a primal level-to exist and to be known by others, to be really understood who they are. As often as it is the case, George Orwell was right when he said,
Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.
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