We live in a culture with more possible ways to reach out and touch someone than ever before. Facebook, Twitter, and email to say nothing of unlimited phone and texting possibilities. Yet people are lonely. We have more people to talk to than ever before. We have therapists and life coaches, pharmacists and bartenders. Yet, we don’t have real community in most American cities. In Los Angeles, we drive to work and back, yet we don’t know our own neighbors. Many people don’t know their own families. We’re so guarded and careful about having to deal with anyone who is not quite like us in values or interests. Either they are too crazy, too conservative, too liberal, too skanky, too bohemian, not bohemian enough, too intellectual, too illiterate. We have long lines of reasons now that have nothing to do with race and religion to continue to isolate ourselves.
In our family, we have always been there for each other, and we continue to work on ways to stay together. We go to plays and the Hollywood Bowl and we get together for holidays and camping trips, but it takes work to build this togetherness. You have to be willing to forget all the stuff you are pissed off about. Sometimes I get pissed off at my ex, but in the end, he is always part of our family.
Loneliness is part of being human. It is why we invent God. So we have someone to talk with when we are alone. Most intelligent people have a rich inner life, and that inner life, shared with almost no one, is what defines us. How do we talk to ourselves? About ourselves. What do we think about when we are alone? That person we are in the face of loneliness is the real us. And chattering about on Facebook, Twitter and at bars isn’t going to change that inside relationship with our inner life. Some people’s inner conversation is a sad lonely girl, some is an arrogant bastard, but I think most people are like Don Logan in the bathroom scene in Sexy Beast berating himself, raging against his life.
Loneliness is part of the reason people become artists and writers. Because the act of creation connects us with the larger story and with the idea of changing the world. Unfortunately, that’s also what makes so many writers arrogant. They get in that room where they are the creators and they come out of it and expect to keep having the power to name, to call out who should be in the scene and who just isn’t working.
I don’t have enough time alone to feel alive inside loneliness. When I am alone in a hotel or rarely at home, I like feeling my own thoughts sifting, drifting, collectively coming together. I have been teaching and working too much and traveling too much and I’m starting to feel like I’m in a constant state of buzz. I could use some lonely quiet time.
Once a Native American was giving me directions to a place in Santa Fe. “Drive until you get a lonely feeling, then turn right,” she wrote. I drove and when there was an open space under a wild sky, I turned. I hadn’t started to think about loneliness yet. I hadn’t started to think. Perhaps that is the problem with not enough loneliness. Not enough time to think. I think therefore I am.