Loneliness Sucks

There is nothing, for instance, particularly undemocratic about kicking your butler downstairs. It may be wrong, but it is not unfraternal. – G.K Chesterton

There are two ways of being by yourself. One is to be alone – a fantastic and human desire – and the other is to be lonely. If you want to be alone, the answer is simple – find solitude, and impose upon thyself hermitage, for however brief a time. If, however, the weather is too beautiful, joy begins to bore, Holden Caulfield seems healthier than ever before and the desire of your heart is loneliness – you’d have better luck in a waiting room, crowded bus, or McDonald’s than in the Sahara desert. For though the Sahara might grant fewer opportunities to meet another human being, if one were to find you, he certainly would not ignore you. You’d surely speak. You’d encourage each other, dwell on lives left, find commonalities, inform the other of any nearby oases – in short, you would appreciate the presence of another human being. But there’s something about today – and I do believe it is a modern fault – that makes our crowds and lines lonely, that twists our human propensity to appreciate each other into an indwelling annoyance with the-world-besides-us. In the deepest caves and darkest tundras, no heavier silence exist than that between twenty Americans waiting for a train. People, people everywhere, and not a drop of communion.

Brent Stubbs quoted John Paul II when he summed up the reason we aren’t acting like human beings; the commoditization of the human person. I was walking with the National Coordinator for Medical Students for Life, some months ago in North Carolina, and in the middle of our conversation he went out of his way to make eye contact with a passing garbage man, smiled, and said “Hi, how are you?” I was astonished. He told me that he tried to make service industry folks feel loved, because they were so ignored by society. He was attempting to pay a deficit  caused by the culture. At this I was astonished that I was ever astonished, because if this commodization, this ignoring of man, this loneliness, this new ability to pass by my brother and sister and not reach out across the void was – to a large extent – a product of culture, then man greeting man on the street is a product of humanity. And my failure to do so was as inhuman as any Crime Against It. It’s the same stuff that makes half my fast-food customers give their entire order to the menu above my head, the money in their hands, the cash register I stand behind, but never me. It’s the same stuff that makes eye contact awkward. It’s the stuff that makes us say “how are you?” instead of asking “how are you?”

Of course, that’s simplistic, pretentious, and leaves a lot of questions. First of all, what is this stuff? And is this universal loneliness truly modern? Couldn’t humans just have always collapsed within themselves? Well, part of it’s fear, to be sure. We don’t trust each other in this world of hurt. Goodness, every other guy’s a pedophile, a sex offender and a rapist, every violent act by any tired and angry human is televised and re-watched for days, we’re taught in public school not to speak to strangers before we know what a stranger is, to not let anyone touch us before we know we have privacy; it may be justified, but surely it is new. Part of it – and this might lose me some readers – is capitalism. I’m not of the belief that it has no redeemable qualities, nor that it won’t make a country rich and powerful, just that it sucks. There are two ways to ignore a man, and if one is for fear’s sake, the other is for convenience’s. Capitalism designates man as an economic entity, and though I adore conversations with pretty girls, I have no desire to converse with an economic entity any more than I would with the U.S Treasury. Don’t believe me? Try having the same conversation with your friend, but have him wear a Target uniform, complete with name-tag. If it is a stumbling block, surely it is a modern stumbling block. Objectification in general is part of it – the sexual objectification of women, the professional objectification of co-workers – perhaps it just sin that separates us. Whatever it is, let us stop. Let us learn again that we are truly all part of the same human family.

The cure – however – is not to be obnoxious. It’s not the middle-school girl approach. It’s not false enthusiasm. If you are without love you’re a garish, clanging cymbal, and so human contact centered around politeness, social norms and culture (cough cough the south cough cough) while it might make everybody comfortable, further wedges us apart. The cure is not some universal ‘like’ of everyone, but it is a universal love. The kind of love between us at Church. The kind of love that recognizes dignity. The connection between men all kneeling at the same time.

This post is gonna have to have one hell of an Afterthought, because the Internet isn’t big enough for some of my incredible ideas. I’ll be that guy and leave with some really inspiring and thought-provoking questions, so it’ll look like I finished: How do you ignore others? How often are you turned inwards, seeing humanity as opposed to you? Have you spoken with your postman recently?

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04444704944288002925 The Ranter

    I usually make it a point of asking service people how they are and looking them in the eye. I remember being in retail and getting treated really really crappy by people who couldn't even deign to look at me. It sucks. I don't want to make people feel that way, so I go out of my way to be more than just polite.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18256362910808868525 Ben M

    I hope I don't make people feel bad or void by my actions, though, in New York City its almost quite impossible not too. I do have to part from you though when you say that capitalism is the problem. I say this primarily because I do not think that America, or any other country for that matter truly practices capitalism. Socialism does not cause us to be figure in other peoples eyes, but the mingling of socialist policy in capitalism creates a horrid poison that allows people to get away with uncharitable deeds by saying that the government will take care of it in their place. A big government promises to take away social struggles and justices so that we can practice capitalism freely… or so they say… THIS is what causes that poison. In capitalism, social and charitable acts are part of the equation, it is only when the government extracts the need for charity and says they will take care of it behind closed doors all for an easy check/tax that you see the commoditization of man

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12679230722483582032 Marc

    my views can be simply summarized:capitalism – pretty lamesocialism – severely lameAmerican mix – pretty severely lame, but excellently counterbalanced by good people and a wealthy state.But you are absolutely correct, capitalism does leave room for charity and that's a great thing.

  • http://catholicunveiled.wordpress.com/ Michelle @ Catholic Unveiled

    Mmm. Yes. Isolation has become all too common I think…an interesting thought to consider addressing in your Afterthought: what's the solution? If you were to write a book entitled How to Change a Culture, what would be Step 1? Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00582879246114515344 Peter Liao


  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15825109896111176650 Giuseppe Ambrose

    Capitalism pretty lame? What are you, a distributist?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11754314916060121587 Jenna

    Wow, I really enjoyed this post. You really have incredible insight. Just wanted to let you know that you're making a difference, keep up the good work!

  • Anonymous

    Capitalism is lame just like any of these modernist -ism. Guiseppe Ambrose, you should read JPII on capitalism.Not-socialism doesn't equal capitalism. Let's be a bit grown up about this. There are alternatives, and of course, none are utopias. Capitalism commoditizes human beings. Everything becomes for sale. The golden calf is profit — capital, from which we obviously derive the word Capitalism. I'm fed up with these pseudo-Catholics and Christians who believe in this garbage Protestant ethic that routinely dehumanizes people.Distributism is also not necessary. We must also distinguish between Capitalism and the free market. A free market is merely the allowance of trading and doing business as individuals see fit. There is no looming ideology one must accept in a free market, because it isn't an ideology. Of course, it can be coupled with an ideology, but that's besides the point. What one needs is a Catholic monarch who will regulate not only the free market, but various aspects of social life without excess. Machiavelli began the political tradition in which virtue was no longer the main point of law making and governing. Law became a tool for amassing power. A society, no matter whether it is socialism or capitalism, is not guaranteed to be moral by virtue of that system. It's entirely possible to be charitable in a socialism state wherein the ideological character of socialism is not imposed on the citizens. It just has a tendency to make it easier to do. Capitalism, as it exists in the US, is a monstrous enterprise, usury ultimately, creating an environment wherein evil can succeed by virtue of lobbying, media brainwashing and a docile populace trained into complacency. Both conservatives and liberals as shallow and venomous to our civilizations. Both politicize the truth. Both lack and inner life of wisdom in which we see each other as human being, not as products, or opportunities to make a buck. We've killed the community, and we now no longer have a reason to create businesses that work towards the needs of our fellow men. We work now to exploit them. We create artificial hierarchies, we believe delusions. We are self-destructive, self-abasing, and self-glorifying all at the same time. Enough is enough! The Church must be purged of its dissident priests, and a full frontal and secondary covert assault must be led against the forces of evil wherever they may be. Not through anger, but through love shall we conquer. If one loves one's fellow man, one realizes and sees in him what one can also be. Spread the good.Re: isolation, as JPII says, we are all essentially existentially alone. The company of others is no cure for that condition, one which only God can repair, if it can be repaired at all. One can be alone and not lonely as you say.

  • enness

    I'm reminded of the recent news of a restaurant deciding to ban small children. I'm not convinced that those who are left won't just find something new to be annoyed with. Why stop there, then? Why not always dine alone? Why not become a reclusive hermit so as to never be inconvenienced by any encounter with another human being, ever again?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

    In my note-book of ideas I recently wrote that “Missing a good party is a kind of Hell” — the quantifier there being “Good”, in this case meaning you TALK TO PEOPLE, not at them. So awesome to find another place where someone smart Has Already Got There. Boy, I love your blog. And I’m not even Catholic.

  • Emily

    Awesome, awesome post. As someone who works retail it is often astounding how rude people can be to one another. I think the worst part is that it creates a vicious cycle where the employees will gossip about rude customers after they’ve left which only serves to add more negativity to the situation.

    I think even something as simple as thanking someone when they give you your food would go a ways to improving how we interact with each other (baby steps!) So many people just take the bag from me as if I am not even there – I always try to tell them to have a great day directly and even then I sometimes get no response. As Fulton Sheen said, ““You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.”

  • Christina

    I love this. Thank you.

  • James Wallbillich

    Someone apparently has read the Rime of the Ancient Mariner!

  • TheTruth

    loneliness certainly sucks after a divorce.

  • Me

    Ironically I work at a major department store who’s current motto for the employees is all about interacting with the customers in such a way that they feel so much better for having come into the store in the first place- doubtful it has anything to do with the person themselves, but has to do with the sales revenue. It’s a bunch of malarkey.

  • TheHonestTruth

    Loneliness certainly Sucks today, and meeting a good woman to share a life with is very hard too. the trouble is that there are just too many Very Nasty Women out there nowadays, and with their Attitude Problem makes it very worse since there are no Decent ones to meet. I never expected to get Cursed at by a woman that i really wanted to meet, and this shocked the hell out of me. in fact, i know other men that have been Cursed at by women too. these type of women must have been very badly abused by their men that they were with at one time, or their parents must have very badly abused them since they seem to hate men. then again, there are much more Gay Women now than ever before.