October 10, 2018

Loneliness — "A problem that almost anyone can relate to."

The quoted phrase is mine, from a post this morning about a NYT op-ed by a college sophomore titled "Advice From a Formerly Lonely College Student."

The Crack Emcee responded, "Almost" and linked to Greta Garbo's iconic "I want to be alone":



That made me think about something in a novel I just read, "Convenience Store Woman." The title character takes in a young man who proceeds to live in her bathtub. She wants him not as a lover or a companion but just so her friends and family won't be troubled by thinking of her as pathetic because she is a woman without a career or a man. He's not interested in her as a lover or a companion. Here's his explanation of all he wants:
“I want you to keep me hidden from society. I don’t mind you using my existence here for your own ends, and you can talk about me all you want. I myself want to spend all my time hiding here. I’ve had enough of complete strangers poking their noses into my business.... When you’re a man, it’s all ‘go to work’ and ‘get married.’ And once you’re married, then it’s ‘earn more’ and ‘have children’! You’re a slave to the village. Society orders you to work your whole life. Even my testicles are the property of the village! Just by having no sexual experience they treat you as though you’re wasting your semen... Your uterus belongs to the village too, you know. The only reason the villagers aren’t paying it any attention is because it’s useless. I want to spend my whole life doing nothing. For my whole life, until I die, I want to just breathe without anyone interfering in my life. That’s all I wish for,” he finished, holding his palms together as if in supplication.
I don't have a "loneliness" tag. I've always had "solitude." That is, I keep open the question whether being alone is a more negative experience than being with others. It's in that context that I made up my aphorism, "Better than nothing is a high standard."

Obviously, Garbo is unhappy. She wants to be alone not because it's sublime and rewarding, but because the alternative is sadder. The man in the bathtub is in even worse shape. And it's a cliché to say You can be lonely in a crowd. One might seek solitude because the loneliness is more painful when you are surrounded by people who are engaged with each other. You may do damaging, dangerous, regrettable things when feeling the pain of loneliness in a crowd.

59 comments:

CJinPA said...

The Crack Emcee responded, "Almost" and linked to Greta Garbo...

When I first came here, I found Crack's comments almost as intriguing as Althouse's work. His blog too. I love the internet.

Shane said...

Better to be Garboespue, than to be Andy Griffith's "Lonesome" Rhodes in the great Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd."

J. Farmer said...

"I never said, 'I want to be alone.' I only said, 'I want to be let alone! There is all the difference."

=Garbo by John Bainbridge

mccullough said...

In solitude the trumpets of solitude
Are not of another solitude resounding;
A little string speaks for a crowd of voices.

Nonapod said...

When I was a kid I used to imagine what it'd be like to be the last person on Earth. I thought it would be pretty need to be able to do whatever I wanted without having to answer to anybody. The whole concept of loneliness never entered into my thought process. I really liked that Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith.

Rory said...

Get a dog. Seriously.

Unknown said...

"Even my testicles are the property of the village! Just by having no sexual experience they treat you as though you’re wasting your semen... Your uterus belongs to the village too, you know."

It takes a village.

Original Mike said...

”I keep open the question whether being alone is a more negative experience than being with others.”

That’s an easy one for me. On average, being with others is the more negative experience.

n.n said...

A universe unto ourselves is limited by our sole perceptions. However, without isolation in time and place, our thought patterns are overlaid and merge. We need both to be whole.

Achilles said...

Introvert vs. extrovert.

Some people recharge their energy by being alone.

Others recharge after a long day by going out and hanging out with a group of people.

Our society would improve if both sides understood the other better.

traditionalguy said...

No slandering Greta allowed. We were big on having friends. Friends are a team like a college Fraternity or sports are ia team. And putting up with team mates is lesson for life. No bath tubs needed. Just a common shower.

But then along comes LBJs crazy Asian War, drugs for all, and social,darkness squared. So you need to work harder on making friends.

n.n said...

Others recharge after a long day by going out and hanging out with a group of people.

And then spend time alone to recharge for another day. Introvert and extrovert are two sides of a bell curve, which has been flattened with the emergence of a virtual world.

Mike Sylwester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Sylwester said...

Song lyrics by Neil Diamond (1941 - )
-----

Solitary Man

Belinda was mine
Until the time
That I found her
Holding Jim
And loving him.

Then Sue came along,
And loved me strong.
That's what I thought --
Me and Sue.
But that died too.

I don't know what I will,
But until I can find me
A girl who will stay
And won't play games behind me,
I'll be what I am --
A solitary man.

I've had it up to here --
Being where love's a small word,
A part time thing,
A paper ring.

I know it's been done --
Having one girl who loves me,
Right or wrong,
Weak or strong.
-----

Sung by Neil Diamond

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Achilles said: Introvert vs. extrovert.

Making a very important point. Not everyone wants to or even can socialize in the same way. Being an introvert, doesn't mean that you are lonely.

I don't know if this was brought up in the article (NYT) but being connected via social media with lots of "friends" is not exactly the same thing as having face to face relationships. Real life contact and interactions. So...even though you may be very "connected" you are still alone.

When your "contact" with other humans is mostly through electronic means, you may have lost the knack or knowledge on how to relate to real people in unpredictable situations. Like a person in a foreign culture who doesn't have a clue on the rules.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Your uterus belongs to the village too, you know.

Yes it does. Hillary's corrupt village. You can buy tickets.

n.n said...

Not the uterus, but the fetus/offspring/baby within. At least so far as murder is an act committed against the individual, society, and humanity.

mezzrow said...

In my solitude
You haunt me
With dreadful ease
Of days gone by

In my solitude
You taunt me
With memories
That never die

I sit in my chair
And filled with despair
There's no one could be so sad
With gloom everywhere
I sit and I stare
I know that I'll soon go mad

In my solitude
I'm afraid
Dear Lord above
Send back my love

mezzrow said...

Billie Holiday on the above. Just go. Listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DVvOsiSQVw

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

His reasoning is pretty good. All the pressures of "the village" are indeed depressing - to some. Some thrive keeping up with the village, some people want out.

His reasons are valid.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Solitude and loneliness are two completely different things.

I prefer solitude. Don't want a lot of people around me all the time. We rarely have "company" at home. IF we go out to socialize it is occasionally with a few (less than 6) people. Occasionally.

I greatly appreciate my time alone with myself, to read, think, do things that I want to do. I may have solitude, but I am also very occupied and busy.

I also treasure the time spent with my husband. In fact we do almost everything together or in tandem. We are not just married to each other, we are best friends.

The great thing is that my husband is also a "solitary guy", although he does "see" more people during the day because he is working, and I am now retired.

I am solitary much of the time, but I am not lonely because I do have friends and social contacts.

Loneliness is a self reflecting and sorrowful type of emotion. Maybe even a "Woe is ME type of emotion. Solitude is (to me) peaceful, restful and recharging.

John Lynch said...

Free to Choose, Theodore Dalrymple.

n.n said...

When your "contact" with other humans is mostly through electronic means, you may have lost the knack or knowledge on how to relate to real people in unpredictable situations.

The difference between socialization in the real and virtual world is due to limitations of physical presence or intimidation. For example, people can interact with an avatar in the virtual world without feeling lust or disgust. It's probably better this way, since we often cannot authenticate the identity and claims of the writer. Reaction time and response makes a material difference when communicating in real-time and reaching a threshold of knowledge and skill.

dustbunny said...

When we visited different historical sites in Japan my husband and I encountered Japanese men who would politely offer to guide us around. They said they didn’t want money only companionship and the chance to practice their English. Most of them were members of clubs of single men. They had sheets of paper with phrases in English. One told us it was very lonely for single men as everyone was expected to marry and then their social lives revolved around family. Single men are often shunned or so we were told. it was all quite sad.

Darrell said...

People, people who need people, are the sorriest cocksuckers in the world.

bagoh20 said...

I haven't been lonely since I left my small hometown in 1981. Back then I would drive around with nothing to do, just looking for any kind of social activity, but it was rarely found. Now loneliness has been replaced with a deep appreciation for the peace and freedom of solitude. Everyone fears dying alone, but for me, that would mean I was already in heaven.

Bill Peschel said...

Is this a cultural thing? It seems like the Brits do get-togethers and friendships better. Something about having a place to go where you can get a drink and talk nonsense.

I had a little of that in Baltimore. I frequented the Emerald Tavern on Harford Road. Neighborhood bar, where I got to know a group of people and go to soccer games with them. It wasn't a deep lasting friendship, but it was fun.

The worst part about being alone is at night, when you hear a noise in an empty house in a quiet neighborhood. You can't turn to anyone and say, "Is that a cat?"

As for the guy in Althouse's novel, he needs to get hungry. Then he'll have to get out of the bathtub.
For most people, that's a compete life: earn enough to feed yourself.

gg6 said...

"I Myself am Heaven and Hell"
...Khayyam and Milton (two infrequently read op-ed philosophers).

Bay Area Guy said...


This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don't give up
Until you drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky

This is for all the single people
Thinking that love has left them dry
Don't give up
Until you drink from the silver cup
You never know until you try

Well, I'm on my way
Yes, I'm back to stay
Well, I'm on my way back home

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don't give up
Until you drink from the silver cup
She'll never take you down or
Never give you up
You'll never know until you try.


"Lonely People", America (1974)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

n.n said The difference between socialization in the real and virtual world is due to limitations of physical presence or intimidation. For example, people can interact with an avatar in the virtual world without feeling lust or disgust.

I agree completely in some respects that aspects of a virtual can be a less limiting or freer interaction. The problem is those who for other reasons have retreated from real life and then feel lonely or isolated.

EXAMPLE:

I have an in-law relative who has some severe physical limitations and spends a great deal of time in virtual reality games MMORPGs. This relative is quite good at the game and a well respected gamer. As a person who also "gamed" in the past for hours in MMORPGs, I understand this dynamic and have experienced this personally.

The mother of this person is very upset and concerned and nagging about her adult child's social isolation. Says stop playing games!

I had to explain to her that her "child" is NOT isolated and has a very full social life on-line. That gamers in these types of games communicate constantly with each other via voice and text during the game. That there are Guilds, which are like clubs on line. They often have extensive chats afterwards to analyze the game and set up strategy for the next event. The relationships between "gamers" is deep and multifaceted and NOT just about the game but all sorts of other conversations and fun on line socialization that has nothing to do with the game. Some of the Guild members have even come to spend time IRL and were not put off by the handicap because through the virtual world, they know their friend in a deeper way.

"Your adult/child has limitations off line that make it very very difficult to make friends because of the visual aspects of the handicap...right? Your adult/child is a person of HIGH status on-line, free to do all sorts of things in the virtual world that are impossible in real life, and has created some deep friendships.

Leave your adult/child to have the social life that IS possible and not the one you want them to have. Be proud and thankful that there IS this way for your child to have self esteem and fulfillment."


I think she understood. I did the best that I could.

But this is different than just retreating into Facebook and Instagram as a substitute for real life.

Fernandistein said...

If the question is when your social life will recover, a first-pass answer is never.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Ferandistien's photo upgrade. - lolz.

I hear that Paul Krugman is also a crazy cat lady.

Fernandistein said...

I just noticed that I was listening to the Stones' "Blue and Lonesome" (2016) - that drummer was 75 years old!

"Charlie's good tonight, ain't he?"

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The Rose

Some say love it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love it is a flower
And you it's only seed

It's the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance
It's the one who won't be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed
That with the sun's love
In the spring
Becomes the rose

William said...

When I was younger and working, I had to interact with the world just about every day. My hygiene was good. I wore nice clothes and tried to present an affable presence to the people with whom I had to negotiate life and it's social events... Despite listening to their bland drivel with patience and kindness, I was never quite able to make many connections. Loneliness has haunted me all my days.

Michael K said...

When my wife and I announced we were moving to Arizona, the kids were upset and said we would be 700 miles away.

We didn't tell them we waited 35 years to get 700 miles away from them. Oh, we see them at holidays and visit on grandkids' holidays.

We flew to Oregon to attend my wife's grandson's wedding.

But, everyday? No thanks.

JAORE said...

There are always ways to meet people if you choose (physical limitations aside). You can volunteer. Build sets at a community theater, feed the homeless, help at a hospital. Many are too introverted or too unmotivated to do so. Virtual friendships may be the outlet of choice for them.

But don't expect your 6,541 Face Book friends to come to your funeral.

rhhardin said...

People with play for pay jobs don't get lonely.

Howard said...

The comments section is the Althouse Lonely Hearts Club.

Francisco D said...

My fiancé and I are on opposite ends of the extraversion-intraversion scale, but we understand and respect those differences.

She is energized by social interaction and can go on forever socializing with people. You can see her enthusiasm increasing as the conversation goes on, sometimes interminably. I become drained after a while and need "Me Time." What she finds lonely, I find re-energizing. We are just wired differently.

Ann Althouse said...

"As for the guy in Althouse's novel, he needs to get hungry. Then he'll have to get out of the bathtub. For most people, that's a compete life: earn enough to feed yourself."

No, the woman brings him what she calls his "feed." It's very close to having a cat. The cat doesn't give a shit about you, and you feed it. You have your reasons, and the cat lives its own life. The woman makes the money and the man hides from all the people who would judge him, whose judgment he doesn't respect and can't do anything about.

Fernandistein said...

"I suppose I can cancel the Vienna contract."

It's nice to know the source of that famous quotation.

Fernandistein said...

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
You need to feed me
And scoop my poo.

Paul Sand said...

Garbo in Ninotchka shamelessly (but amusingly) takes off on her famous line. (E.g., Here, here, here.)

whitney said...

"....and you can talk about me all you want."

Horrors. One of the many beauties of living by yourself it's not having to listen to anyone else talk. And my opinion Solitude is the most valuable luxury that exist

Guildofcannonballs said...

Althouse's blog is my family and I DON'T NEED ANY ONE ELSE!!!

Guildofcannonballs said...

Clint Black – We All Fall Down Lyrics
I oughta know the look in another's eyes
When there's something on their mind
I think I saw that look in a lover's eyes
They were looking into mine
Like we both had found the one we want
But found the one we wanted just quit trying

So we tell ourselves that what we found is what we meant to find
That's what we tell ourselves
You won't believe the things
A heart could tell a mind
Somehow we sell ourselves on love
I just don't think I'll believe my heart this time

I oughta know the language well
I've heard me tell myself these things before
I finally made my mind up
My heart tells me to look for something more
Determined not to wind up wondering was she the one
Well, you never can be sure

So we tell ourselves that what we found is what we meant to find
That's what we tell ourselves
You won't believe the things
A heart could tell a mind
Somehow we sell ourselves on love
I just don't think I'll believe my heart this time

So we tell ourselves that what we found is what we meant to find
That's what we tell ourselves
You won't believe the things
A heart could tell a mind
Somehow we sell ourselves on love
I just don't think I'll believe my heart this time

Songwriters: MATTHEW CHARLES ROLLINGS, CLINT BLACK
We All Fall Down lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group, Wixen Music Publishing

Char Char Binks said...

Hell is you people.

mockturtle said...

Companionship is nice in small--and finite--doses. But I do really prefer solitude. Never feel lonely.

Phidippus said...

That guy from the novel sounds like what the Japanese call "hikkikomori", men who stay inside all the time, maybe venturing out at night to buy something, but otherwise reclusive. They didn't get on the the salaryman conveyor belt whether through choice or personal inadequacy, so they stay at home, usually sponging off their aging parents. In typical Japanese fashion, the parents generally just pretend to ignore them and don't complain.

In any society, there are people who don't fit in comfortably with normal expectations. It seems that there really isn't a place for many of them in modern urban Japan.

I've been to Japan many times, and find much to admire about the culture, especially the traditional culture. But the interaction of traditional ways and values with modern Western culture sometimes seems to lead to results that are... strange, to our eyes.

The question of "How shall we live?" has yet to be conclusively settled at this time, by anyone.

Hoosier in Tokyo said...

"There's a fat man in the bathtub with the blues"

Sydney said...

The saddest thing is to feel lonely in a marriage. And if you do, don't listen to Loretta Lynn songs. They will just make you feel worse. Also, don't read the lyrics of songs in this thread.

jimbino said...

I'm a single man not looking for either sex or marriage, but for good friendship and companionship. For that reason, I would like to see marriage and its significant tax and inheritance privileges abolished.

The Crack Emcee said...

This sounds like a book I can identify with, as I find no real place in American society, either. (There really is no place for a conservative black atheist.)

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

you're never alone with DID,
but 'Familiarity Breeds Contempt'

Phidippus said...

Don't worry, Crack. You are probably not as alone as you think. Conservative blacks are hounded relentlessly these days, true. They don't even have to get into the metaphysics for that to happen.

Sometimes we have to make our own society, regardless of our color. Kindred spirits exist.





mockturtle said...

I know plenty of conservative blacks but they're not atheists.

traditionalguy said...

I would like to dedicate to all the lonely people out there one of the King's early hits, Heartbreak Hotel. As his fans know, Elvis really felt his lyrics. He was raised a Pentecostal.

The Crack Emcee said...

mockturtle said...

"I know plenty of conservative blacks but they're not atheists."

Thank you.