Monday, June 05, 2006

All the lonely people

And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart.
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
- W.H. Auden, poet (1907-1973)

Never mind forgotten, few can bear to think themselves alone.

We are social beings, cleft to each other by nature. Unlike some mammals that can live alone comfortably until mating time, we humans need the company of each other. We need to hear the voices of each other.

We need the touch of each other. Touch is our most unrecognized basic need. We need to feel the touch of someone else against our bodies.

Without these symbols and signs of closeness, we do not function well. Our immune systems suffer depression (clinically called compromise). Our minds tend to depreciate toward senility remarkably quickly. We eat in ways suggesting that we want to punish our bodies.

Being alone, for most people, means that the rest of "our people" have rejected them. That fact that the lonely ones among us may not have the social skills to make friends and build relationships occurs to almost no one. Loners, we think, choose to be alone.

We call some eccentric. Some weird. Some witches or hermits.

Some withdraw to practise their art, their craft or their music. Some find safety in overuse of drugs to keep them perpetually stunned, unaware of their failure.

Some commit crimes, for profit or excitement. In prison, they find the social milieu they fit best, one comprised almost entirely of socially inept loners.

Some commit suicide. A few of those try to show others how desperate they were in life by taking others down with them.

Some join religious cults, especially of the extreme or fundamentalist variety. They may become suicide bombers. For those, recognition among their people for their act of martyrdom may be the most significant thing they do in their lives.

The rest of us who are comfortable and safe just Tsk! And Tsk!

They were, after all, loners and strange people by choice, weren't they?

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to show the loners for the desperately helpless and needy people they are.
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