“…Loneliness can be a prison, a place from which we look out at a world we cannot inhabit…” Poet David Whyte
Some people are on the mountain of loneliness—rock stars, chefs and business tycoons. Some, who we will never know their names, are in despair, depression, and stuck, barely able to walk or stand. Sadly, these folks like myself used alcohol, and other addictions to numb the pain. Others finally decide that suicide is their only option to get out of their lonesome valley once and for all.
These are the people in W. H. Auden’s poem, “The Unknown Citizen,” written in 1939 is perhaps even more relevant today.
…he had everything necessary to the modern man, a photograph, a radio, a car, and a Frigidaire…when there was peace, he was for peace: when there was a war, he went…Our teachers report that he never interfered with their education. Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: Had anything been wrong, we should have certainly heard.
There is a loneliness emergency, and as the Beatles asked a long time ago, “all the lonely people, where do they all come from?” Some or most of them never make it to the emergency room or a doctor or therapist. And yet loneliness is a serious health risk. It is a predictor of premature death and is a bigger risk factor than obesity and the equivalent of smoking up to 15 packs of cigarettes a day, according to recent studies.
In 2018 we have 500 channels, computers, 80% of the world’s population have smartphones that they can talk on, watch TV on, listen to music and soon driverless cars and yet, 50% of Americans report regularly feeling lonely and one study shows those between 16-24 are the most likely of any age group to report feeling lonely.
There is a loneliness emergency in this country and others. I finally came out on the other side of the deepest, bone-lonely period of my life after my divorce, so I’ll be saying more about this emergency, but for now, touch a friend, call, hold someone, speak to someone face-to-face, and for God’s sake, if you are suffering from loneliness, tell someone about it.