At some point in life, you may come across a realization.
This realization, while not universal, is discovered by many people around the world, every moment of every day. It is a moment when the clouds part and you see life for what it truly is. In our modern society, I feel many may miss this realization. I would like to share it with you, in case you haven’t had it yet, or in case you have had it and are wondering if you are the only one who has thought this way.
This realization is so fundamental to reality that it is easy to not see it clearly, or to miss it entirely for the vast majority of your life. I have a feeling that most of the “elders” of eras-gone-by came to this realization at some point, which helped allow for the mental clarity and fortitude necessary for them to be looked upon with reverence by their descendants and fellow citizens/tribesmen/etc. It is a realization that doesn’t come spontaneously – it normally follows a period of deep contemplation, intense inner searching, and perhaps even great pain or fear.
This realization stems from the fact that you are, ultimately, and regardless of your views on society, economics, politics, the hard sciences, metaphysics, psychology, or family, an individual. You spend a vast portion of your life not being this individual – you spend it doing things you don’t want to do, filling the little time you have available in this life with activities that make you uncomfortable or unhealthy or bored, often at great pain or sacrifice to yourself, in order to fit into some preconceived notion of who you are, which has been thrust upon you against your will by those you have surrounded yourself by, or that chance has bestowed upon you to be in the presence of for much of your waking day. And it has only been thrust upon you against your will because you were actually unaware of what your will really is.
The realization that I speak of is that loneliness is and always will be a perpetual constant in your life. You can surround yourself with friends, family, and others. You can spill your heart and guts out to anyone within earshot. You can conscript an entourage to accompany you to any event you see fit. But, at every moment of every day, multiple degrees of separation keep you physically and, more importantly, mentally apart from those around you. You are and always will be lonely. You will never truly connect with another soul in the time you are allotted on this earth. You will always be a small vessel in a vast ocean of humanity, able to see the other ships passing around you – some traveling in your general direction for a while, others heading on a reverse course – but you will never be able to board their craft.
It is fundamental to humanity to have the desire to board these metaphorical ships. But it is in the nature of reality to never actually have the capacity to do such a thing, no matter how deep the desire. Individuals find love, they get married, have children, have intricate social networks, host parties, produce music and movies and lectures and write books, but they never can truly embrace another human being in the truest and most full sense that they desire so greatly from birth. The closest they have ever been to this embrace is within the womb, and we spend our entire lives, having been thrust from a warm, comfortable, safe space, into a cold, desolate, harsh and dangerous realm. We enter crying, and, if the circumstances are just right, we leave crying, as well.
We spend our days and nights in desperate search of this warm embrace. We find cheap substitute in our social life by attending parties, going to bars with friends, taking holiday vacations to visit family members we haven’t seen often, signing up for online dating profiles to see who is our perfect match as prescribed by an algorithm. And, at our highest moments, at the times when we feel most loved and comfortable and safe and uniquely appreciated for who we are, we still sense that something is missing. And it is this feature of the human experience that the realization I mentioned above, that loneliness is a constant, is proven by.
When you wish to communicate with someone, you have to have a thought you wish to express with them. This thought can be a description of emotion, a subjective artistic expression, a deterministic and mechanical example of a physical process in the world around you, or a simple stream of consciousness of the ideas and impressions that come to you immediately as they pass through your mind. But in order to communicate these thoughts, you need to think again – to form the words internally, to construct the right message that you wish the recipient of your communique to hear. You then say these words, sometimes with error, sometimes perfectly, and as you speak, air rushes from your lungs, pushed by your diaphragm, and it flows across your tongue, teeth, and lips, creating sounds that travel as waves of high and low pressure through the air.
(As an aside, if you were in an area with a high level of noise – let’s say right beside a jet engine – these sounds that we interpret as words would be lost in the cacophony around you. We will return to this notion later, but keep the idea in your head.)
These words-as-pressure-waves then hit the ears of your intended recipient. Your companion’s physiology goes into action, sending signals from nerves attached to tiny hairs and bones in their ears to their brains. Their brains interpret these signals into sounds, and further interpret these sounds into words, which represent ideas that they have adopted over many years of successful and unsuccessful practice doing this. As they interpret these words, a distinct narrative is formed, which is what you intended to do all along by having a thought, creating the message, and saying it out loud.
But is something lost in translation between these varying transfer methods? I told you to keep in mind the “noise” scenario of talking next to a jet engine. While a jet engine is at the extreme end of the scale, even a slight wind could distort the message, making key pieces inaudible and missed. If you tried to speak to someone with a severe mental disorder, you could draw a correlation to the jet engine scenario, except the “noise” of the “jet engine” is the internal noise of their mental faculties, possibly making any message you send them “inaudible” mentally. And, since a person with severe mental disability is on the extreme end of the scale of mental “noise”, could each of us be carrying our own “breezes”, “construction yard sounds”, and other such “examples” of noise internally? These noises could include difficulties in the individual’s life such as the loss of a loved one or any significant life event, to the individual’s lack of knowledge of a certain word or term, to a strongly held belief concerning the message being sent to them that they refuse to reconsider regardless of the facts, logic, or reasoning constructing the message.
If the above is indeed the case, and I have strong suspicions that it is most certainly so, then we all exist with multiple degrees of separation between us, no matter how effective our communication techniques, how persuasive our arguments, how close we are to the individual we are communicating with. We will never board the conceptual boat of their consciousness to actually know them in any capacity that doesn’t transcend those internal and external noise sources – and as it stands today, there is simply no method of transcending them.
This leads me further into the concept of loneliness as a perpetual state of humanity. At some point, you realize that even though you have spent a significant amount of time with certain people, even though you think you know them inside and out, you never truly know them, and you will always exist within your own little bubble of individual consciousness. You may be traveling alongside them in the ocean of our collective consciousness, but you can never stray from your vessel, and you will always be at arms length with those in your life, at best. You will never return to the womb.
Humanity’s existence is plagued by the return to the womb mentality. Ancient man was thrust into an unforgiving world, the harsh elements tearing at his flesh through bitter cold, scorching heat, teeth, claws, and venomous and infectious stings and stabs, and threatening his very existence with lack of nutrition or fluids – two factors readily available in utero. In an effort to return to the womb-like state from his adult state, man developed methods to cope with these unforgiving elements, and the invention of tools to create these comforts is what has driven us continually to this very day – we needed clothing, we needed protection from predators, we needed to hunt, we needed shelter, we needed organized communities and the ability to spread ideas, we needed reliable agricultural methods to escape the scary hunter-gatherer lifestyle and to support ever-growing numbers of our families and friends. Despite all of our advances, have we ever been able to return to the womb? Not once in the hundred billion humans who have lived on this planet have we achieved this state again.
The art of loneliness. What is it? It is the ability to understand this fundamental yearning for humanity to return to the safe vegetative state of its origin and to reject it. We surround ourselves with comfort in an effort to stave off the effects of a world we never had a say in entering. We surround ourselves with people, and we try and find commonalities between us, in order to feel the illusory caress of belonging. At some point, many people realize there is no belonging. You are and forever will be an individual among many individuals, and no amount of connection you make with them will change this fact.
But the art of loneliness goes further than just the initial point that comes immediately to your consciousness. You might say to yourself, “Well OK then… I have to reject the need to belong, to connect, to feel comfort, and I have to be completely stoic and alone.” This is far from what the realization should reveal to you. You should connect with others. You should feel comfort. You shouldn’t be alone, in the physical sense. What you most certainly should accomplish, however, is the realization that all that we do is in an effort to return to the soft comfort of a vegetative state. We yearn for this, and we have built entire modern industries around this ancient longing. Understand that this is the default motivator of mankind, and take a conscious effort to accept that you can have control over what motivates you as an individual.
You will find yourself bending to the will of others, modifying your behavior and your views to a group consensus. You will find yourself doing things you dislike in order to be accepted by others. You will find yourself giving up on things because others told you it is hopeless, or silly, or meaningless, or non-profitable. You will find yourself spending time with people who are nothing like you in the hopes they will be your friends.
Reject the notion that you need any of these things or to act in any manner besides your own simply because you feel you need to return to the comfortable state of conformity. Only accept viewpoints that you truly agree with and reject those that you find morally or logically inaccurate, or even reprehensible. Do not waste your time on people who may or may not care enough to help you as much as you would help them – and if you haven’t discovered this already, you will probably one day find that it is a surprisingly smaller number of people than you imagined.
Reject the return to the womb-state, and embrace that you are a single point of consciousness floating on the sea of existence. Do what you want to do after you have done the things you have to do to continue your existence. Any other purpose is at best a pointless exercise in disappointment and at worst a waste of what little time your vessel has to stay afloat. Understand that you are by nature alone in the world – there are others near you, others closely aligned, but no one else shares your existence. You are alone. It allows you full creative control over how you decide to pursue your life. At first it is frightening to come upon this realization, but then it is liberating, and once you achieve the full realization, you become a much more conscientious, knowledgable, and enlightened individual, and others – whether they have come to the same realization, whether they even understand why they now feel this way or not – will appreciate your views and companionship more. They understand you are doing it out of full control of your will, and not out of a need you must sate in order to return to a vegetative state of comfort and “defaultness”. It has guided your actions for years. It has had full control over every aspect of your life, including your thoughts, your desires, your love, your hate, your fears, your ambitions.
Does it really control you after all?