Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I was a teenager when I first experienced loneliness. I can’t recall the precise moment — but I have a hazy impression of it, like a meaningful place visited once, all blushes of color with no distinct lines. The thing of it was that I wasn’t alone; I could feel the pulse of other people in the room, I could hear the rumble of their voices, I could sense the air shift as they slipped around me… but more than anything, I could feel that I was alone.
Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote that hell is other people. We may also say that loneliness is other people.
When we speak of being lonely, we do not mean that we are alone; we mean that we have no unity — we mean that we, ourselves, are separated from ourselves. When I was a child, I was never alone. My books kept me company and the universe thrummed with life and begged for my companionship. When I was with friends, we joined together and danced in the brightness of the sun.
Children are like Ulysses. They are “a part of all that they have met” and cannot be alone until they “rest from travel”. Like the “man of many ways”, they take pleasure in their cleverness and creativity and little deceptions. Yet when ten, twenty years pass, when they arrive at what is called home, the world dims and they can no longer find joy…
Our friends have faces but no breath and no depth. We look at them through glossy windows that provide no insight into their souls.
“How are you today?”
“Which you do you refer to, sir? Of which fragment do you speak?”
We think that technology connects us; we likely thought that when the first wheel was invented or when the first human leapt upon the horse’s shaggy back. Then, that first man lied to himself and said, “I can travel long distances with speed. I can move far away from others — and still be connected.”