There is a diagnosis yet to be added to the DSM V. It’s Loneliness NOS or Loneliness Not Otherwise Specified. There is no pharmaceutical cure for it, yet if not treated, it can destroy the well being of us all.
The illness is hitting the culture epidemically: children, teens, adults, and seniors; singles and couples. At its worse it can drive someone to take his life publicly in the US Capitol building. At least that way someone will notice another’s despair, right there on national television. In fact, noticing and showing compassion to someone in extreme psychological pain is often the panacea to despair. An act of love can resuscitate the human spirit, bringing someone back from the brink of death but for the man who died over the weekend, he missed the opportunity for support.
This epidemic hits many of us. If it takes a village, where the hell is the village?
We are far from Eden. We can be sitting next to someone watching the game while he or she texts nonstop to someone else instead of sharing it with us. Somehow our presence isn’t enough. Communication methods have intensified and yet a sense of isolation and alienation have too. Unless entwined with a lover or a pet, the sense of intimacy may end as soon as we log off from the on-line community.
Even sex habits have changed. Like in the brilliant film “Her”, it is now common to have sex over the phone or on screen. But this is certainly no substitute for the real thing – skin upon skin, sweat upon sweat. At its best, sex can be the most profoundly intimate experience of our lives. Yet we can use sex in various forms to escape, only to find ourselves even more lonely afterwards.
But is any of this really all that new? Are we more lonely than we were before?
Loneliness is the burden of humanity whether in ancient or modern times. What then does it take for connection?
Union comes with effort, luck, and vulnerability. It comes with surrendering our expectations of being fed and when we are more open to giving than receiving. It comes when we are selfless and expect nothing in return. It comes when we cry but look towards someone else who is crying and perhaps hurting even more than us. We find it in those brief moments when we are seen and witnessed. When someone lovingly holds us while we sob. When we feel the sun or wind on our face. When a group of worshippers feel the Spirt or devoted rock fans feel deep pleasure at a concert. It is a wave taking you, propelling you forward, and it’s fingers flying across a key board. It is a kitten’s purr and a child’s smile. It is an elderly person relieved to have you hold his or her hand. It is putting one’s head on the earth or holding onto the trunk of a tree while saying, “I’m here. Take me.” It is saying, “I’m sorry. I screwed it up.” It is saying, “We are all one.”
It is the perception of separation that is so painful.
In reality, we are all one.