Every human has likely felt lonely at some point in his life. Many feel it chronically.
Merriam-Webster cuts to the essentialism of loneliness in its definition: “being without company; cut off from others; not frequented by human beings.”
In technocratic, purposeful, and spectator America, feeling lonely has become pandemic. A Cigna May 2018 survey of 20,000 Americans found that…
- Nearly half reports sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.
- One in four rarely or never feels as though there are people who really understand her.
- Two in five sometimes or always feel their relationships are not meaningful and feel isolated from others.
- One in five reports she rarely or never feels close to people or there are people he can talk to.
The survey also reported that those “who engage in frequent meaningful in-person interactions have much lower loneliness scores and report better health than those who rarely interact with others face-to-face” and that “getting the right balance of sleep, work, socializing with friends, family and ‘me time’” are critical factors in one gauging his loneliness quotient.
Looking at both Merriam-Webster’s definitions or the survey’s findings, the common element, which seems obvious, is relationships with other people, and technology is often, justifiably, pointed to as a major culprit.
Studies have found Gen Z, college-age young adults, feels loneliest, and correlates strongly with their “logging on,” non-personal interaction, oftentimes, passive.
In “Psychology Today,” Dr. Shainna Ali points out that loneliness is frequently associated with anxiety, depression, suicidality as well as poor coping mechanisms, smoking, and self-harm. Escapism and self-destructive behavior.
In Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown references a study that shows breathing air pollution cuts a lifespan by five percent, obesity by twenty percent, and excessive drinking by thirty percent. Loneliness, though, can cut a person’s life by 45 percent.
To social scientists, clinical psychologists, other professionals such as teachers, as well as the average person, the findings make sense and explain much. Writers, singers, and artists try to capture the sentiment. In “I am, I said,” Neil Diamond slices right through it.
But they—definitions, survey findings, lyrics—do not consider another factor: Modern humans’ separation/detachment from Nature. I am unable to imagine an ancient hunter or forager being debilitated by loneliness for the simple reason it is a modern disease. It is endemic to civilization, which Nature knows nothing about.
Once humans corralled themselves into pens called cities during the Agricultural Revolution. The mother goddess was dethroned, and her realm came to be The Wild, a frightful place where dangers lurked. Safety was within the city’s walls and dependent upon powerful male leaders: Kings and generals.
With the rise of Monotheism, Nature became a place of evil, where the big, bad wolf, the animal manifestation of Satan, resides. Industrialization and now Technology, have exacerbated the human divorce from Nature.
One answer and perhaps a cure for loneliness is to take the advice our parents always gave us: Go outside and play. And not on a tennis or basketball court.
In my essay “Capacity for Wonder,” I wrote, “One of the downsides of adulthood is the inability or unwillingness to frolic, to romp, to have fun, which is an expression of a hopeful, optimistic person. As kids, fun came naturally. Now, for many it only comes virtually…by watching others have it.”
So, seeking a cure for the blues? Do something counter-intuitive: Make some me-time. A long walk or hike or sit in your backyard. In short time, you’ll be wondering why you were feeling lonely and loving your time alone.