Today, a friend of mine asked me through a chat, “How are you?” It was out of the blue, our last chat was about a year ago, we used to talk a lot since he was one of the very few people that could understand me — and vice versa — but something (not so good) happened which put some distance between us.
Maybe it’s just small talk, but for what it’s worth, I replied, “Lonely. Cosmically lonely.”
In a book called “Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold”, the author Stephen Fry points out that there was a time when Zeus complained about being “cosmically lonely” — sitting on his throne as the God that he is, all he did was granting people’s wishes and listen to their problems.
He then suggested an idea of creating a species “lesser than the Gods” with the Titan Prometheus. And after some heavy brainstorming, that species turned out to be us.
The Greek mythology about Hermes, God of Travels and Trade, is especially interesting since the pandemic situation has decidedly turned me into something more. Though I sense a lot of “cosmic loneliness” in the world — or at least inside me — right now, solitude has become my kind of serenity amidst this bustling world.
I never told anyone that I felt lonely before. The word ‘lonely’ itself rarely ever came out from me. I’ve always been so independent, doing everything on my own. My friend once referred to me as the “dedicated lone-wolf”.
But it’s what they think of me. No one ever knew what I truly felt inside. Even myself would trick me sometimes, doing all those so-called “productive distractions” only to stay away from keeping in touch with my own feelings, resulting in me being in a state of denial.
People say being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. You can be alone but not lonely, at the same time you can also feel lonely without being alone. When you’re alone and you feel sad about it, that’s loneliness. I live in a lively home — definitely not alone, and I’m happy with what I have, both don’t meet the equation, how can I still feel lonely?
Some say that the roots of loneliness come from experiencing a lack of love as a young child. I grew up in a loving family — my parents never spoiled me but always tried to provide what I “need” rather than what I “want”, despite that, they took good care of me. I’ve been loved enough, I still am, and I always am, how can I still feel lonely?
Is loneliness just about the feeling of sadness or anxiety?
When you’re “feeling lonely”, billions of neurons in your brain send chemical and electrical signals to your body, resulting in the weird uninvited feeling of wanting company. It’s possible to feel loneliness in a crowd, especially if you’re deeply longing for meaningful interaction with others.
But I don’t. I don’t want a company. I don’t want to have a deep intimate relationship with others just to cope with my loneliness. I just want to embrace this feeling and accept it as what it is, can’t I?
The feeling of loneliness doesn’t just magically appear out of thin air. No matter how many times people say that “you are not alone”, “we are in this together”, “this is a matter of common concern” — all that sort of stuff, knowing we are not alone and feeling lonely is two different things.
Loneliness is inevitable. Even if we learn to be alone without letting it overcome us, loneliness will strike you at night, at dawn, in the crowd, in silence, and in your dream.
The Universe is a hostile place and we may truly be alone in the Universe.
Even if life arises, it may never progress past slime.
Even if higher life arises, it may never progress to intelligence.
Even if intelligence arises, it might face a Great Filter.
We might truly be alone in the Universe.
And whilst we may never know for sure that we are alone in this universe, to feel lonely is part of our consciousness, within the world of the matter. It’s part of us aligning with the universe.
As to how Alan Watts put it, “You are the universe experiencing itself.”
The cosmos won’t punish me for feeling its terror of loneliness. I just want to accept it. Embrace it.
Because for what I know, someday, as the world rapidly grows and soon will seek my soul in vain, maybe I’ll yearn for this feeling again.