By Ben Mijuskovic
And he looked around and said,
I’ll make me a world.”
Then God walked around,
And God looked around,
On all that he had made,
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at His little stars;
He looked at His world
With all its living things,
And God said, “I’m lonely still.”
And God thought and thought,
Till he thought, “I’ll make me a man.”
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust,
Toiling over a lump of clay,
Till he shaped it in his own image:
Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
The Creation, A Negro Spiritual (J.W. Johnston)
Man emerges in the realm of Being in God’s image as the being which is essentially lonely. The essence of Man is loneliness. Ever since the Old Testament; the Greek myths of Prometheus, Sisyphus, and Deucalion and Pyrhha; the dialogues of Plato; the treatises of Aristotle; the novels of the eighteenth-century; and on to the Existentialist writings of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Sartre, Man has expressed his intrinsic and universal situation of unfathomable loneliness. “We are lonely from the cradle to the grave and perhaps beyond,” declares Joseph Conrad. We find the mirror of our loneliness everywhere, in the arts, in the social sciences, and in philosophy.
Where we were to inquire what is the most serious, the most intense, the most dangerous medical condition facing human beings, we would probably generate some disagreement surrounding a number of viable candidates: heart failures; cancer; diabetes; etc. But if we were to ask what is the most intense and terrifying mental condition facing each of us, alone, we would, I believe, invariably all reply that it is loneliness.
I have argued in books, articles, and lectures that the soul and mind of Man is permeated by loneliness; the greatest estrangement is to be separated from God (Kierkegaard); the greatest alienation is to be separated from our fellows (Marx); and the greatest anguish is to be separated from the mutual intimacy of the other self.
Why this is so has been a special concern of mine for four decades. Our natural narcissism from the beginning craves and depends on the physical nourishment and the emotional nurturance provided by our first caretaker and we subsequently seek the latter in a lifelong struggle to find it, retrieve it, and secure it.
The cure for loneliness has two prongs: Insight and human connection. The first is strongly intellectual. For example, it stresses that like death, loneliness is universal and inevitable. We fight against it with varying degrees of success just as we battle with disease and illness with different outcomes. The second efforts for success lie in forging mutual bonds of trust and developing a strong sense of empathy with the other self.
The opposite, the conquest of loneliness is intimacy. The Web of Loneliness offers the two most powerful strategies available in our intellectual and emotional arsenals for transcending and vanquishing loneliness: Insight and Social Support.