Following two-back to back Ethics lectures, I headed over to the cafe for a meal and watched the news for a few moments as they interviewed "experts" on their opinions regarding Governor Palin; the question at hand- whether she would be overwhelmed with the Vice Presidency considering her familial responsibilities. Strangely this story was quite the welcomed escape for me because the discussion at hand was about something so highly specific and immediately practical. For the last several days I have been knee deep in lectures and readings offered by Plato, Immanuel Kant, Confucius, J.S. Mill, and St. Thomas Aquinas on topics raging from the plausibility of the existence of God, to varying theories and counter theories on Morality/Ethics and the philosophy of religion itself... I actually feel on edge somehow, as if I must critically analyze every passing thought... to the point of feeling as though I want to fold to the nonsensical belief of true skepticism.
After this short break, I journeyed through the center of our modest sized campus where many of the different student clubs had set up tables to appeal to the students passing by. Colorful banners, loud pop music and cheap, useless incentives littered the courtyard making the University look more like a bustling flea market than an institution for higher learning. There were religious/spiritual clubs, fraternities, sororities, an African American association, and a number of event based organizations; a myriad of groups crying out for attention. And I thought for a second how we all just want the sense that we belong somewhere, that we are not alone.
A friend of mine recently admitted to me his greatest fear in life was to be alone and this is evident in the fact that he is constantly surrounding himself with company and I mean that not as a criticism, but rather matter-of-factly. On the other hand I have been inconsistent about company and have spent a great deal of my time without in recent months... and in some ways I began to pride myself in the fact that I did not need to be around other people all of the time... I guess I thought this meant that I was more independent somehow and not so afraid of being alone... but I think this has been a false conclusion.
The truth is I hate feeling alone probably just as much as the next person, just as much as my friend... and I do fear it, I fear it a great deal... or at least fear that it could get worse or be a perpetual state. But the thing is, to me loneliness has always been more of a philosophical problem than an environmental one. What I mean is that it is far deeper a dilemma that may have little to do with whether you are with people or in solitude. I think a person may feel alone in the company of his/her closest friends, sitting around the dinner table with a loving family, in the arms of true love.. at least I have found this to be true. This is not to say that being physically isolated isn't problematic, it does in fact have psychological consequences, but what I'm considering at the moment is the converse, why people can feel alone when they are not in fact alone. But I speak from my experience, never having to have faced actual, physical isolation for any substantial periods of time...so I may be incomplete in my thinking.
Lately, "Community" has become the big buzz word among Evangelical circles. The emergent church writers have filled our bookshelves with seemingly radical ideas on "doing life together" as a fundamental part of what Jesus taught and I think it is a beautiful concept that does permeate the scriptures. Yet I can't help but wonder if we might often view it as some kind of a solution to this problem of loneliness. So when we hear of someone who is struggling with feeling alone, we think that they should immerse themselves in the busyness of community...we think that if we can make them feel loved and accepted, understood and heard and a part of something that they will begin to feel better... it seems quite obvious, if someone feels alone, they must be in need to be with and around other people right? but perhaps this isn't always the case... If I am correct in asserting the idea that loneliness is in fact primarily a philosophical problem then it would follow that merely changing the circumstances wouldn't do the trick... But again perhaps I overstate my idea... I don't know if in fact it is more of a philosophical problem than a material one...or more of a circumstantial problem than an existential one... I think I can, for the time being safely say that it is likely to be at least as much a problem of the soul as it is of the body... back to the books, but maybe I'll touch on this more later....
I leave you with an excerpt from D.H. Lawrence's controversial book, Women In Love:
[A conversation between Ursula and Rupert who are romantically involved.]
"Love gives out in the last issues?" she asked, feeling numb to the lips.
"Yes, it does. At the very last, one is alone, beyond the influence of love. There is a real impersonal me, that is beyond love, beyond any emotional relationship. So it is with you. But we want to delude ourselves that love is the root. It isn't. It is only the branches. The root is beyond love, a naked kind of isolation, an isolated me, that does not meet and mingle, and never can."
She watched him with wide, troubled eyes. His face was incandescent in its abstract earnestness.
"And you mean you can't love?" she asked, in trepidation.
"Yes, if you like. I have loved. But there is a beyond, where there is not love."
She could not submit to this. She felt it swooning over her. But she could not submit.
"But how do you know -- if you have never really loved?" she asked.
"It is true, what I say; there is a beyond, in you, in me, which is further than love, beyond the scope, as stars are beyond the scope of vision, some of them."