Sunday, 7 October 2018

Shared passions

I had an interesting thought about loneliness the other evening, while I was sipping wine at an art gallery exhibition launch. I wondered why I didn't feel lonely, even though I was on my own and I was surrounded by people in couples and groups chattering away to each other.

Loneliness is normally taken to mean the lack of close relationships in your life, the sort of relationships where you can connect with someone at a deep level and feel a sense of intimacy and empathy.

But I wasn't with anyone else, so why didn't I feel lonely? I realised it was because even though I wasn't with someone, I shared with the others present a passion for modern art, and an enthusiasm for this particular artist, which meant I felt connected to them and had that sense of intimacy and empathy that dispels loneliness.

I get the same sort of feeling when I attend political rallies. I share with those around me the same political aims and attitudes, the same passion for a better and fairer society, and again that makes me feel connected to them.

In fact I feel connected to other people in all sorts of ways. I see them going through the same struggles as myself, the same difficulties, the same successes and failures, the same hopes and fears, and I don't need to talk to them or befriend them to empathise with their predicaments.

It surprises me when people don't feel that general connectedness to others, when they feel cut off from other people, shut up in their own personal existence as if there's some invisible barrier between them and the rest of the world.

I should sip wine at art galleries more often. And wait for the dazzling insights.

29 comments:

Bijoux said...

Yes. People who are alone are not necessarily lonely, while there are those who feel very lonely while surrounded by people.

nick said...

Bijoux: Indeed. The crucial thing is whether you feel a common interest with the people around you. I would feel desperately lonely if I was in a crowd of fervent football fans. I would have nothing whatever in common with them.

Wisewebwoman said...

Yes, common interests are good, I share a few with people and love the camaraderie of being in the same space, sometimes without a word exchanged. The act of creating something together enhances the experience or sharing stories or just listening to a great band like I did a few days ago.

Solitude and loneliness are two different experiences though and many get them confused. I can live in my own head quite happily.

XO
WWW

Joanne Noragon said...

Well thought, well reasoned, well said.

nick said...

www: That's it, there can be great camaraderie without a word being spoken. And yes, listening to a band with other fans is another good example of connectedness. I also agree that solitude and loneliness are quite different things.

Joanne: Well, thank you! I enjoy thinking through these unexpected insights.

helen devries said...

I agree, a shared interest makes for camaraderie...I used to go to cricket matches on my own and never felt isolated.

Jenny Woolf said...

It is possible to be lonely in a crowd but rarely if you are interested in what is going on.

nick said...

Helen: It does. Being in a cinema is another good example.

nick said...

Jenny: Exactly. A shared interest creates a bond between you all, a sense of being kindred spirits.

CheerfulMonk said...

I never feel lonely when I write, even if it's just in a journal. And blogging is even better!

nick said...

Jean: Same here. When I'm blogging I feel connected to all those people who regularly read my blog and comment on it.

tammy j said...

I agree with everybody's comments. the only thing that might make it lonely is if you wish you could experience whatever it is with the one very special person in your life at the time. it's been so long now since I lost Bob that I have adjusted. but after Bob died and I was in the Bahamas... I was exploring the beach. and I thought "Oh my boy. I should be here with YOU!" still... I was walking along the long beach from our hotel and playing in the shallow waves coming in and I was totally happy! so... just meaning I guess... there might be moments. but that doesn't mean I'm lonely. I love my solitude and my own company.
and the internet like you and Monk say is such fun. how can anyone feel a lack? it's so interesting. like a living psychology course! and every other kind of course. it literally opens the world to us at the touch of a button.
for instance I know this cool dude in Belfast! :D

nick said...

Tammy: Yes, there's nothing quite like sharing an experience with a significant other or loved one. I'm sure if I lost Jenny, I would always be wanting to share something with her and feeling the loss of not being able to.

I like the fact that you love your solitude and your own company. So many people find solitude unnerving and are desperate to avoid it.

A cool dude, eh? Eccentric old codger more like!

Eryl Shields said...

What a lovely experience you had!

I don't think I ever feel lonely anymore, there are people lost along the way that I miss, sometimes violently, but I think that's a different thing. Yes, as I think you're saying, loneliness is some sort of disconnect from the rest of humanity, or those who surround you. I find I can always locate someone to whom I feel a connection these days, which is great, but it has the unfortunate side effect of robbing me of sympathy and understanding for those who express they are lonely. This means when that happens I have to act the part of a sympathetic ear, and I fear I'm a terrible actress. You win some...

Secret Agent Woman said...

Do you think the fact that you are in a loving, stable relationship might also have something to do with it? For me, loneliness has little to do with being alone at the moment, especially since I’m an introvert. But I have had times where I felt lonely in a crowd when I wasn’t involved with anyone and it represented a more general missing connection in my life. Now, for instance, I’m in a good marriage and I don’t ever feel lonely on my own.

BrightenedBoy said...

I wonder if knowing there's someone you're going home to plays a role as well? Earlier this year I was dating a really fantastic guy, and just keeping him in mind made many other situations seem less bleak in light of his affection and care for me.

nick said...

Eryl: It's tricky acting sympathetic when you don't really feel it! Yes, I see loneliness as a disconnect from other people, as you say. If there's an epidemic of loneliness right now, as we're told, maybe it's because people have isolated themselves and lost sight of our common humanity.

nick said...

Agent: I guess being in a loving, stable relationship helps, but on this occasion I was coming home to an empty house as Jenny was in Toronto. So I could just as easily have been feeling lonely and missing Jenny.

nick said...

BrightenedBoy: That does make a difference, but I think a sense of connection with other people and their passions can create a very real feeling of companionship even if you're physically on your own.

Danielle L Zecher said...

I don't think the number of people around you has anything to do with whether or not you feel lonely. Like you said, you were attending the art gallery alone, but felt connected to the other people there. On the other hand, you can spend you day surrounded by people but still feel lonely if you don't feel connected to them in some way.

nick said...

Danielle: I agree. The sense of connectedness is the key factor. I feel lonely when I'm mingling with thousands of people in an airport terminal, because we have nothing in common except a plane to catch.

Kate said...

How nice to feel this way. At the risk of complimenting myself too, because I feel this exactly, I think it's because we *empathise*.

nick said...

Kate: And if you have an active imagination, it's not hard to empathise with other people, is it? Their fortunes and misfortunes could so easily be our own.

kylie said...

Hmmm, you are entitled to your observation but I tend to think your lack of loneliness is more because you know you have Jenny on the end of the phone.

The loneliest I ever get is when there are peole around who could be good company but for some reason aren't, like when all my kids are at home but in an exam period and locked away both mentally and physically....

What it boils down to for me is whether I am expecting anything. In an art gallery I wouldn't expect to be interacting so I would be perfectly happy

nick said...

Kylie: Good point about people who would normally be great company but for some reason aren't. I agree that makes you feel rather neglected.

No, for me whether I'm expecting anything isn't the point at all. Surely you can still feel lonely even if you're expecting nothing whatever?

Rummuser said...

I am very well connected to lots of people and do not need wine sessions in art galleries to realise the same. Thank you.

nick said...

Ramana: Indeed, you're very well connected to a large number of people around the world. As you say, wine sipping not necessary!

Joared said...

I think being comfortable with oneself allows a person to go places physically alone and not feel lonely. Probably what you say about connecting to the environment and/or people there with common interests would apply, too. If someone’s sense of self is dependent on having a partner in their life they might be more inclined to experience loneliness. I’ve also thought loneliness can exist even for those with partners if a desired level of intimacy is not present. Interestingly to me, after my husband’s death (we had been wed just shy of 43 years) there were occasions when I unexpectedly and suddenly felt pangs of loneliness when I became aware of couples around me — even though the environment was one in which I felt most comfortable alone. I never could determine what prompted the feeling in those instances, sometimes long after his death. All,that said, I do think there can be crowds of people in which a person might feel lonely or feel little or no sense of connection to those around them.

nick said...

Joared: A good point about still feeling lonely if you lack the desired level of intimacy. And yes, feeling comfortable with yourself is a big factor as well. Interesting that you felt those sudden pangs of loneliness for no obvious reason, long after your husband's death.

As is often noted, it's possible to feel extremely lonely in the midst of teeming crowds. If there's no sense of connectedness to anyone present, then certainly you'll feel isolated.