The Art of Loneliness in a digitally connected world!
Aaaah! The tenderness of us, sweet-hearted, fragile human beings.
I’ve taken myself out on a writer’s date, not too far, literally to the new(ish) coffee shop that has opened directly opposite my block of flats. It seems an obvious choice considering it’s the view that greets me each time I gaze out of my window these days!
It’s grander than I expected and larger too, a winding corridor leads to little labyrinthine rooms furnished with little chairs and little tables. Bar the couch area, and a curtain shy corner holding a larger ‘family’ table, what strikes me immediately is that pretty much most of the space, and it is a busy Saturday afternoon, is taken up with single occupants. 100% are on their laptops. Macs. Engaged in ‘screen time worlds’ a million miles away from right here now.
Screen time. It’s so much the norm of our lives isn’t it? Especially if we’re of a certain generation, millennials I guess. Online and digital work, business, hustle and the whole social media game of likes and followers and friends. I watched a YouTube video this morning from one of those influencer people that I find fascinating and strangely compelling. She was talking about how everything is changing in that world now. That new algorithms will favour those folk who actively seek to create dialogues, true, honest, interested dialogues, with their peeps. You know, like you care, like you actually want to know who this person is behind the glare of the fancy few minutes of visibility time.
Yeah, I thought. Like old times, like being a human. Like how we, as those tender fragile beings, are geared up. We need each other. We die from lack of contact. I’m not being dramatic here, there have been studies done on new born babies, not forgetting the heart breaking Harlow’s monkeys experiments on our own primal animal need for comfort and love. I’m just not so sure we get that from being eternally engrossed at a computer screen!!
I can’t judge. I’m the same.
Except for that my computer of choice is a PC. And that I’m about twice their age!
I take a few moments after proffering today’s choice of coffee from the roughly 15 types available, to take the scenes around me in. I don’t know why but something about what I’ve described has touched me. Maybe it’s the emotive charging loud soundtrack playing on excellent speakers?! Maybe it’s the new moon energy?! Or maybe it’s simply that the word ‘loneliness’ has been showing up and revealing itself to me over the last couple of weeks.
Across from me is a large white eggshell white wall. There’s nothing on it apart from the glare of a single spotlight, obviously purposely poised to shine its glare. It looks like the sun on a cloudy day, you know how it can appear to be hiding behind a veil, slightly foggy from grey skies? It looks like that. Beneath are sat 3 girls. Separate tables. Macs. Head down. In a weird way the whole ensemble seems like a piece of performance art about to begin. Or maybe it’s already begun and this is it. Separate worlds happening in separate minds through separate screens. In a strange way it’s quite meditative watching them, not much activity. There’s a Zen quality to the silence and space. Reminds me of libraries. Does anyone frequent libraries anymore?
Loneliness is a familiar to me. Like a cat I guess. I don’t feel it brushing across my skin so much these days, but when I do it’s quite breath-taking.
It catches us off guard doesn’t it, seeming to wait until we are empty handed, undefended, open. I sometimes get what I’ve always called ‘Saturday loneliness’, especially being a single lady. When one carries a certain sensitivity to life, a curious observation, which many of us artists do, our internal radar is pretty highly attuned. For some reason, what mine can attune to are the proliferation of couples about on a Saturday, smiling like glossy adverts, all perfect lives, and someone to be in on the joke with! Separate bubbles of separate cosy worlds.
For some reason the loneliness feeds off this and strikes, sinking its claws into my flesh. Obviously this makes me flinch, but the strange thing is, when I think about it, just like the cat, all it is trying to do is curl up on to our lap and keep us company! It doesn’t mean to scratch us. It wants us to stroke its fur, make it purr, find comfort in it. You see that’s the thing. When loneliness cosies up to us, we most usually desire to turn away from it, try and get it off us, ashamed, embarrassed, caught in a desperate attempt to outwit the clever pawed creature. The animal will win. It always does. Just like the animal of us!
And the more we try to disentangle ourselves from its hooks, the more of a guarantee it will cling on, deeper, harder, drawing our blood with it, narrowing its eyes.
I like loneliness these days.
I like its texture. There’s something velvet and dark, sultry and aching within it. Maybe it appeals to the gothic lover in me, the soul woman, the lover of my own solitude and company. For you see, it’s not that I’m lonely when it brushes its tail in my direction. I know that these days I am far from lacking in loved ones and friends to engage with. I know that I have lots to excite my attention and satisfy my senses. No. what I become aware of now, is that loneliness is a siren signal that I’m missing, not another, but myself. Not just my own time, space and company, but intimacy, true intimacy, with my sweet self.
Loneliness for me equals missing my own self.
Oh the irony!
Somehow, somewhere, sometime, I have become disconnected from myself. Easy to do isn’t it!? Busy busy lives. Rushing to and fro. The beats and steps of our lives now more in tune with the high pace of the fastest bandwidth, and the quick fix ‘make it as an influencer in less than a blink of an eye’! Or a cat’s whisker!!
Disconnection means I’ve left myself somewhere. Possibly somewhere in the late 90’s!! ;-). It’s like my shadow, or my familiar, is waiting for me to come get her. Maybe that’s why the cat analogy works so well for me!
Intimacy means slowing down, dropping down, putting down anything that curdles my time, my breath, my attention.
Intimacy is giving myself my attention. Even, and especially, when there’s nothing to do, nothing’s happening, there’s nothing to say, or be entertained by, or stimulated with. It’s quiet often. Sweet. Innocent. Inquisitive. Heart tender. Young. Playful. And full. So full that it lacks for nothing, it is missing nothing. It’s content. It’s purring. It’s warm.
I look over and 2 of the women are chatting now. Smiling, engaged, and remembering another world than the one that takes them away from intimacy with life and each other. It warms my heart too.
Don’t be scared of your loneliness darling. Don’t hurry to remove its weight from your lap. There’s a beautiful poem by Hafiz that has been sent back and forth over the last decade and a half between myself and a dear one. It goes like this:
“Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more deep. Let it ferment and season you as few human or even divine ingredients can.”
Loneliness is a human quality, and so it must be a divine one too. I believe it’s a soul quality, a calling one home, when we are tired and too full of outside. It’s a call to come back to our body, our heart, our substance and the very breath and breadth, of who we are.
Yeah, I write this on a computer. Sat on my own on a Saturday afternoon. And yet I feel so touched for some reason. And heart lifted. And I smile because I can hear someone laughing heartily. I see the girls engaging and, well, I don’t know if it’s just my imagination, but I swear that sun spotlight is shining ever so much more brightly now. Maybe the foggy skies have cleared! They always do eventually.
There’s nothing wrong with being a digital lover. Just don’t forget to be your own lover too!