CLOSURE: A Made-Up Relationship Term

If you’re going home for the holidays, trying to recover from a divorce, a break-up or really any transition, change or loss may I suggest we stop looking for Closure.

Closure is, according to the dictionary, “a psychological term that describes and individual’s desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion to ambiguity.” And it is a “set has closure under an operation if performance of that operation on members of the set…” I never understood math or calculus and people are not mathematical equations. And just because we long for lost love, happier childhoods, better outcomes of all kinds and what we wish would be, never gets finished like a math problem or a business deal. The idea of closure is a therapist’s shell game – find the closure pea under one of three cups. The therapeutic community tries hard to not know there was never any pea in the first place. Closure is a made up modern psychological word. It probably came into use sometime in the 60s. Perhaps Gestalt therapy, Primal, EST, later Forum and Insight, all agreed we should seek this state in order to move on. Moving on does not require closure.

You see after each failed relationship, no matter how bitter or sweet the ending, we still think about them when we see someone who looks like them in an airport. On a holiday we see them in the window of a passing Toyota, and if we don’t see them there, we see them in our dreams or at the very least, we hear “our song” on the radio.

My first love, mostly unrequited, on-again-off-again, high school and college sweetheart and lifetime friend, got married very young to a very unkind man. However, we saw each other at class reunions, funerals, weddings and sometimes late at night when neither of us could sleep we’d call and talk for hours. No matter how many hours of therapy I did looking for this enigmatic, amorphous thing called closure, I never found it. However, we explored the option of being together for decades. The closest thing to it was the four hours we spent in a Hampton Inn in downtown Austin when she learned she would be leaving this world thanks to the curse of cancer. We sat down and told each other everything in-between loud sobs, laughter and watching the other customers nervously leave the restaurant. You know I still think about her. I’m writing a novel with her as the main character. Now anyone reading this might think I need more therapy and you’d be right – one can never get enough says this therapist of 35 years and counting.

For those of you like hard research – 3,000 men and women were asked on a questionnaire would they consider remarrying their ex-spouse if they were available? 70% said they would definitely consider it. So much for closure. Do you know how many people marry their high-school or college sweetheart after their spouse dies? Me either, but it is quite a few.

Okay literature and movie aficionados, look at literary books published before the 60s. Steinbeck’s Joad family did not find closure in California, no closure in Hemingway, Fitzgerald and certainly none in Faulkner, Hawthorne or Huckleberry Finn and there is not even any in the Bible.

“Oh, Rhett, why can’t we just get closure?” “Frankly, my dear I don’t give a damn…”

Bogart and Bacall or Spencer Tracy never found it.

Hans Solo never even thought to ask.

Even Butch and Sundance remain frozen in time.

Finally, I bet you never heard your grandparents or parents, if you are over 40, use the “C” word.

The bottom line, some people leave us and some people come back and some leave us again and the parents, siblings, former best friends aren’t now who they were, they are ghosts that still haunt us, memories of who and what they were like and how things used to be like or never were. If one of my best friends, who left me for reasons unknown, was to appear today at my door, she could never close up the sorrow of the she who left. If my father, who is still alive at 90, and I tried to get “closure” with the 30-year-old father he was, is impossible. That young, green father is dead and gone. The feelings we have that make us seek closure are coming from memories we have of the past and the illusions we have of our futures should go.

SOLUTIONS—

1. A line from a Robert Bly poem, “The people we have loved, we will always love…”

2. Use your therapy money to help you find resolution – oh wait, that is Closure’s kissing cousin, never mind.

3. The word closure originated from the word “enclosure” and that is what we really do at the end of a relationship. We build an enclosure in our hearts and at the same time we let go as best as we can, and never let anyone tell you when you have grieved too long.

So What’s the Holdup on Being Held?

As Part II to my previous post, “Isn’t It Touching,” I thought touch-starved men might be interested in considering the following ideas.

  1. Most men either have one male friend who lives in Russia or Tasmania, but they haven’t  met face to face in 30 years, or they have none – solution? Get more men in your life.
  2. Where to go to get a healthy male hug or simply to be held? Men’s gatherings like the one I led two weeks ago in the mountains of North Georgia – 70 good men with Mentor Discover Inspire (MDI)! 12-Step Programs that sober men attend. Go to a Mankind Weekend – an excellent place for male comradery.
  3. Stop settling for bullshit conversations sometimes, not always, but talk and listen to what is going on inside of them and you.
  4. Deal with the “Moral Injury” perpetrated on you by boys and men and the hurt and injury we have done to other men.  (Definition of Moral Injury: An injury, a wound to an individual’s moral conscience and compass when men witness or fail to prevent acts that go against deeply held codes of conduct. Moral injury is a betrayal of what’s right and often results in PTSD because of unprocessed grief, guilt, anger, embarrassment and shame.)
  5. Remember C.G. Jung’s words, “Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” So don’t condemn men who need to be touched, and for God’s sake, don’t condemn yourself for still being a live, breathing, touch-starved man.

 

Isn’t It Touching?

Most men are touch starved, touch phobic or sexualize a tender touch.

Many men have never availed themselves to a therapeutic massage by males or females. I was one of those men into my 30s. The first time I received a healing massage, I wept and wondered why I’d waited so long and why I had to pay $30 (back then) for human touch when lots of people got it for free.

To be hugged by a man was taboo in the Deep South of my raising. Real men shook hands. Some of us eventually graduated and upgraded to what I call the “Heterosexual A-Frame Hug.” This is a leaning, barely touching, beating the hell out of each other’s backs, for no longer than 1 ½ seconds.

You see many men that I grew up with were, and some are still, “Homophobic.” This term has lost its true meaning. The word does not mean fear of gay people; it means: Homo = Man, Phobic = fear – fear of men – the competition, bullying, beatings, cheated, lied to, molested and abused by fathers, uncles, Priests, etc.

So all this has led to men not only alienated from men but isolated and lonely in their own bodies. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons men die earlier than women and are lonely to their core and ultimately leads to a breakdown of male friendships and male non-sexual intimacy, the lack of mentors, and the fear of being held in general, which after thousands of hours of therapy and men’s work a lot of us finally receive a safe man’s embrace.

Here is an excerpt from Canadian poet, Alden Nowlan:

“He Sits Down on the Floor for the School of the Retarded”

…It’s what we all want, in the end,

to be held, merely to be held,

to be kissed, (not necessarily with the lips,

for every touching is a kind of kiss).

Yes, it’s what we want, in the end

not to be worshipped, not to be admired,

not to be famous, not to be feared,

not even to be loved, but simply to be held.

 

The Illusion and Reality of Abandonment

“Adults can’t be abandoned,” I said in a clinical conference with 500 or more persons in the audience. They were stunned and were contemplating running me out of town after being tarred and feathered.

“Wait a minute – I didn’t say adults don’t feel abandoned.” A mother says, “But my adult son stopped coming to see me. He abandoned me.” “My wife abandoned me 30 years ago,” a client said to me in a therapy session. Actually I’ve heard, “They abandoned me,” hundreds of times.

But you see adults don’t get left on the steps of an orphanage or at the door of a police station, and they don’t end up in a mall holding the hands of the security guard looking for daddy.

Most children after the Industrial Revolution, and even now, experience a variety of forms of temporary or permanent abandonment. Fifty percent of households in the U.S. is a one-parent home, and a one- or even two-person home – will in fact leave their children unattended for brief to long periods – not maliciously – but cooking, cleaning, phone ringing, doorbells ringing and 30- to 40-hour work weeks.

In order to not experience abandonment there would need to be extended family, caregivers, etc. to meet a child’s needs every hour of every day. Remember 20 minutes in a soiled diaper or crying hungry in a crib, feels like eternity.

When someone leaves us, a husband, wife, lover, or even a good friend, we may enter into “Child Time.” A non-returned phone call on Monday leaves us feeling like 24 hours is 24 days by Tuesday.

Many reading this brief post have been abandoned so many times in childhood and adolescence that we become habituated to constantly abandoning our essential self. We give ourselves away to be with someone for fear if we don’t, then someone will leave us and never come back.

Bottom line – we as adults abandon ourselves quite frequently until we don’t, and once we learn how to keep ourselves, when another adult leaves us we will feel loss, grief, anger, disappointment, despair and depression, but we won’t feel “abandoned,” because we are connected to our deepest self. 

Here are some ways to stay connected:

  1. Learn more and more ways to implement self-care and self-soothing.
  2. Bring in any, or many, supportive friends to be with you as you come out of “Child Time.”
  3. See a counselor, therapist, priest, rabbi, etc.
  4. Get out in nature as much as possible.
  5. Cry, scream into your pillow, write “loss letters.”

I hope this helps.

Excerpt from best-selling book The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man

The following is taken from my first best-selling book, The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man. I thought it was timely to share this since I will be keynoting at two men’s events this month:

Oct 19-21 The Bubba-Buddha Men’s Empowerment Weekend for Mentor*Discover*Inspire Organization (MDI) ~ LaFayette GA

Oct 26-27 What Does Healthy Masculinity Look Like Now? ~ Sponsored by Lenoir-Rhyne University ~ Asheville and Hendersonville NC

I hope you will find something in this post that will touch you in some way, and I will be pleased to hear from you.

In 1981 I read one of the first articles about Robert Bly’s work with men in New Age Magazine. While I was moved and completely understood what he was saying, several years passed before I felt the truth told by the man who spoke to me as one who had lived my life. His father was an alcoholic – so was mine. His mother treated him like a magic person and gave him what C.G. Jung terms a “mother complex” – so did mine. He had escaped the world of men – so had I. He said that men who didn’t get in touch with their own deep masculinity found themselves unable to make commitments, hold down jobs and have good relationships. They constantly projected their souls onto the women they loved and left. These men did not have male friends because they only trusted females. He called them “Flying Boys” – I was a Flying Boy.

Unconsciously I had denied many things masculine and male in me. Though I looked and dressed like a lumberjack, I kept my hair long like my mother’s. I saw maleness as exhibited by my drunken angry father and wanted no part of such meanness. I had seen maleness via the cultural fathers who sent their sons to Vietnam to live out their, and John Wayne’s, dreams of heroism and cultural domination. I wanted nothing to do with such maleness. I looked toward the feminine and tried to look like a sensitive man who would not use his intuition to plough through people’s souls and bodies. My spirituality was deeply feminine and finally soft. During my early 30s, thanks to Bly, Laural and others, I realized that I was one who was completely out of balance and quickly approaching a “sickness unto death.”

If you fly away from commitments, responsibilities, intimacy, feelings, male friendships and your own body, chances are you are a Flying Boy. If you are a woman reading this, chances are you have loved or come into contact with a Flying Boy.

Flying Boys frequently use fantasy to escape reality. They hide in their mind/intellect, reason to avoid the pain they keep in their bodies. They appear to all but those closest to them as sensitive, gentle and completely in touch with their feelings. The truth, except in the most extreme circumstances, is that they seldom even know they have bodies and feelings.

Fate and circumstance always seem to be controlling their lives. They can’t quite make life work for themselves. When things do begin to work out or they finally succeed at something, they fly off in pursuit of another city, lover, job, degree, religion or drug. recovery treatment center image jumping between two mountains

Flying Boys are often addicted to sex, work, pain and failure as much as they are to intensity and darkness. They are constantly coming down from ecstatic highs and descending into deep, dramatic depressions. They seek the extremes and are bored with the in-between times.

Flying Boys often grew up in dysfunctional families. Their fathers were both emotionally and physically absent. Their mothers often tried to compensate for this loss. In the process, the Flying Boy learned to reject his masculinity and grew to overvalue the feminine. He experienced his feminine side vicariously through his mother and other mother-like women in his life.

A Collection of Poems from a new book, “Five Friends on Sunday Afternoons”

Book Release Celebration and Reading at Malvern Books – Friday Oct 5 at 7 pm

John Lee will be celebrating the release of, and reading from, a new collection of poems, “Five Friends on Sunday Afternoons,” along with authors, Lyman Grant, Bill Jeffers, David Jewell and John Oakley McElhenney. Please join them at 7 PM CDT at Malvern Books located at 613 W 29th Street in Austin, TX 78705.

Lee will be reading two of his poems, A Thunderstorm in Mentone and Holding On, that were written in his sweet cottage on Lookout Mountain in Mentone, Alabama as part of his way of letting go of a place that has been so dear to his heart for almost three decades.

A THUNDERSTORM IN MENTONE 

A thunderstorm in Mentone.

The wind is different tonight.

The leaves on the trees move easily.

Summer rain cleans the horses

grazing in the pasture

across the road.

I saw lightning for the first time 

in months. It looked like a ragged

tuning fork, and I felt the thunder

roll through my body.

Today, in a house a hundred miles

away I saw my father for the first

time in ten years.

He sat beside me with his bare shoulder

against mine as we looked at a map.

Years ago I would have wanted more to

happen and felt a disappointment,

but this meeting moved easily.

A part of me (the part that always wanted more)

felt cleaned. The lightning comes down in jagged

lines and then separates into its tines. A tuning

fork and a father and son

are like that too.

We talked about gas mileage; then

he showed me the peas he’s grown in his

garden.

This is the most affection I’m going

To get, I thought.

Today this amount of affection was finally enough.

HOLDING ON

There is always one leaf

that hangs on to certain trees

even in mid-January – wind

blowing thirty miles an hour.

It holds on the way a bowl holds on 

to a Buddhist monk, a Bible holds

on to a Christian; the way a cane

holds on to a blind man.

What holds on to me when it’s winter?

A poker perhaps to punch and stir the

fire, a pen that turns empty white

paper into a prayer for some company.

Every morning I sit down by

the fire. I see the poker by my hand,

the pen on the table and, outside, the

leaf still holding on.

 

Letter # 40 – Sitting on a Rock by a Small Stream

Dear Mr. Lee,

I’m sitting on a rock beside a small stream in the Memphis Botanical Gardens as I write this letter to you. My name is Thomas and I am a 25-year-old graduate student who knows where you have been. I can and do identify with everything you have written in The Flying Boy.

Last night I started reading your book and immediately felt a connection. As I would read, I would feel the tears well up in me like an oil well ready to burst; however, I had a tight lid on and it couldn’t escape. I went to bed and in the morning still had the said feelings and also questions about the woman I am in a love/friendship with. I continued to read your book and have the tears come to the surface. I knew I wouldn’t be any good at class, so I skipped and came to the spot by the stream. The point in your book that really got me was on page 67, when your father said to come home. I started crying and sobbing; thank you.

I wanted to write you and let you know how much this book means to me. I am also a fan of Robert Bly’s work and a fledgling member of the Men’s Movement. I hope one day to become a counselor and work with men and women and help them reclaim themselves.

Thank you for your work and God Bless.

Sincerely,

Sitting On a Rock by a Small Stream

Dear Sitting On a Rock by a Small Stream,

I want to honor you for sending this poignant letter in a different way than I have others.

I want to share with you one of the greatest quotes about tears from a man you wouldn’t naturally assume would come from him, but you know his books:

Men are allotted just as many tears as women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our lives eaten away by alcohol because the lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough. Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini.

We men were taught so much bullshit about tears, weeping, crying, sobbing, that most of us like you, my friend, we hold tears and put them in the tanks, barrels and drums of our own bodies, and as you said, put a “tight lid on” so they can’t escape.

I remember when I allowed myself to enter the slipstream of my own sadness it scared me. Like I told my therapist at the time something thousands of men have said to me, “I’m afraid if I ever start, I’ll never stop; I’ll flood this therapy room. A second Noah will have to build an ark.” But once I got my tears back, I told myself I’d never let anyone take them away from me again and if I need to shed sadness through my eyes, I’d do so no matter where I was or who was watching, and I’ve kept that promise to myself.

So much so that at my wedding a thousand and one years ago, my best man, Robert Bly, gave a toast; he said, looking at my wife’s family and friends and my own, “What can I say about John Lee? He is a great weeper, and he’s taught me to grieve and I wish I could be more like him.” After those words were spoken, I didn’t hear anything further from my friend’s mouth because I was looking at the mouths dropping open from Susan’s mother, dad, uncles, and cousins thinking, “Okay, Robert, thanks. Now my in-laws are worried.” But I wept as he said them. So you keep letting your tears come out and never let them be taken from you.

Oh, one more thing. Men carry handkerchiefs not for the women they love necessarily but for our grief that could come pouring out anytime, anyplace.

Take Care,

JOHN

 

THE FLYING BOY LETTERS: Getting Back to Y’all 30 Years Later

These are excerpts from my forthcoming book. They encapsulate my work with clients, workshop participants and key-notes. Hope you find them helpful.

Letter #7

Dear John,

Sitting in the audience listening to you on that Saturday night at the International Men’s Conference in Austin, I was struck by your voiced desire to simultaneously honor what you are doing/have done and your need to move on into what awaits you. The depth of my response to your seeming paradox was to want to write a letter to you. This is it in your hand.

In my first 10 years in the program I understood recovery to be a process of seeing and owning what had happened and how I contributed to it, making amends and cleaning the house as necessary, and then leaving it all behind to begin life in a new, “recovered” way. Sometime after my 10th AA birthday, which coincided with being in my mid-40s (a cataclysmic combination if there ever was one), I came to understand Recovery completely differently. In the process I began to feel somehow estranged from many of the people to whom I had been the closest. I came to understand Recovery as the realization that the experiences of my life, although I might not wish them upon my sons, were actually the building blocks which had made me who I am. Without them I couldn’t be me. Therefore, the question became not, “What are the traumas of my life and how do I recover from them?” but rather, “What were the experiences/building blocks of my life? What did I learn? What I have I done with the knowledge? We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it” took on new meaning. Recovery became owning my own building blocks and who I am becoming.

You probably have very little time and receive lots of letters saying, “Yes! I relate to you and your experience!” While it’s true, and I do, that isn’t the point of my being inspired to write to you. I heard you say a version of what I described in the paragraph above. I haven’t heard many people say it cleanly. I also haven’t heard many people say, in effect, “I am tired of being a guru. It can be nice but it can also be isolating, and I want to change something. It’s time for me to take some more steps.” I quit my job earlier this year for those very reasons. Where does the guru go for release and spiritual and temporal nutrition? Laying down the robes can be tricky.

As presumptuous as it may seem, I am reaching my hand out to you. If you would like to break real or metaphoric bread in person or over the phone with someone with life experience, no axe to grind, and no particular needs for you to meet, I would like the opportunity to exchange value, which is my definition of an adult relationship.

Peace.

Sincerely,

George H S

 

Dear Laying Down the Guru’s Robes,

You say you haven’t heard many people say, in effect, “I am tired of being a guru.”

That, my friend, was nearly 30 years ago. “Guru” is an Eastern Indian term for “teacher.”

I’ve been a teacher now for 45 years, but haven’t been a guru in 39 years, or at least, not thought of myself in terms of “guru.”

I must say that when I wrote my first book, The Flying Boy, I was a struggling, poor graduate student at the University of Texas and a card-carrying New Ager right down to the bone, equipped with long beard, kinky hair, and only wore tee-shirts, jeans, and the official shoes – Birkenstocks way before they became a fashion statement you now see elders wearing to Walmart. I had a leather “medicine bag” with crystals, hawk feathers, and some other stuff I can’t recall. And oh, wait; I had some I-Ching coins in there in case I needed to consult the oracle. I used to be Mr. New Age; now I’m Mr. Old Age. 

I finished that book instead of my dissertation, went on the road giving lectures and workshops thinking I’d be a one-book author and head back to graduate school, finish, get tenure and die on some small campus in Anywhere, USA.

I didn’t go back, and yes, I might have thought of myself as a guru for about 15 minutes only to realize, like a lot of people, I was constantly worried that audiences would see I was an example of the Imposter Syndrome, where any moment, someone in authority would tap me on the shoulder and tell this recovering redneck from Alabama that the jig was up.

You ask, “Where does the guru go for spiritual and temporal nutrition?” Your question suggests that you were a robe-wearing rascal who was ready to look for a new vocation. I trust now, 30 years later, these robes have been given to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. I know that is what I did with my imaginary saffron duds.

Yes, 30 years later, I’m still on the road teaching, but I don’t for a minute, after all the mistakes I’ve made, think of myself as a guru.

Shanti, Shanti, Namaste (just kidding),

JOHN

 

The Flying Boy Letters: Getting Back to Y’all 30 Years Later

Letter 21

St. Louis, MO

Dear John,

I need to thank you for your book, “The Flying Boy.” I am in the midst of reading it for the second time. The first reading tore me to pieces and put me back together. I had to become consumed with intense pain before I was willing to take action, which led me to the bookstore at the treatment center I went through for chemical dependency in 1980.

It would look as though my pain’s immediate source is being unemployed, broke, and currently trying to let go of a woman who has left me. The pain I am experiencing is the worst I can remember. Your book has shown me that these things are the result of a pain I have always been aware of, running very deep, and anger I thought only the Devil was capable of. You’ve helped me realize how much work I need. I am deathly afraid of having to go through what you did, hoping I can somehow escape it, or that it won’t be necessary.

The first reading, at many passages, brought tears to my eyes. Only recently has my pain been strong enough to allow myself tears, and only this book, hitting so close to home, has brought them out of me.

The second time reading your book, I stop as certain passages bring back memories as far back as saying my first words and many more painful memories.

I have never felt so completely hopeless and lost as in recent days. All I know is I hate my pain and I want it to stop, and I certainly don’t want it to last as long as yours did. In one way, I really don’t like knowing how sick I am, because it seems like so much to go through. On the other hand, I am grateful and feel like your book saved my life, reaffirming the fact that I have always know that what was in me would kill me before it would go away on its own.

I don’t know for sure where to go for the help I know I need. I don’t know for sure what kind of help I need, except I know I need a lot. You have many times heard people, when undertaking something say, “If it saves one life, it’s worth it.” Well, I am writing to verify to you that your book was worth it. If I am ever in Austin, I will look you up and thank you in person. If you are ever coming to St. Louis, I would enjoy meeting you. Please call ahead.

Forever grateful,

Joe L.

Dear Who Never Felt So Hopeless and Lost,

You know what fire and rescue teams try to get into our heads? If you’re lost in the wilderness, stay put and they will come find you, and yet nearly everyone tries to find their own way out and they end up getting terribly lost for days or weeks, or die out there because they were so afraid no one would come find them.

It’s okay to be where you are. Be where you are. Be where you are so that you can move out of it.

Then there’s the old saying, when the student is ready, the teacher will come. Once again there is great wisdom in getting still, silent, and trusting that now that you are hopeless and lost someone is on their way.

While we are hating our pain, we must give it time to prepare us for the healing, and God, that’s hard to do. I hated my pain so much I did everything I could to numb it with alcohol, women, and work. None of them worked. It was going into the pain, letting myself be scared of where my pain would take me. I felt there was so much in me, no firefighter or rescue squad would ever find me if I just stood still and trust and wait, trust and wait. So I grew wings and flew from the pain, flying from woman to woman, job to job, beer to beer and rum, whiskey, and vodka. Man, did I rack up some frequent flyer miles on this body. I couldn’t commit to anyone or anything too long for fear if I landed someone would find out who I really was and how much wreckage and trauma had been put in my young body as a child and adolescent.

Finally, my soul sickness caught up with me, and like you, I really did have the intellectual awareness at least that, as you said in your letter, “what was in me would kill me before it went away on its own.”

So once upon a time, long, long ago in a house on 9th Street in Austin in a shabby house even God wouldn’t live in just as the sun was sinking down and the moon was slowly rising, Laurel, the woman who left me saying I was angry and full of sadness, came around one more time.

Bottom line, she, the forest ranger of feeling and search party for a young man’s pain, came and found me. From dusk until dawn I was like a newborn colt who fell into the deep grass of her arms and I wept out, screamed out, three decades of pain as she held me and kept saying, while she couldn’t come back she wasn’t going away that long night into the darkness that was in me so deep I didn’t want her or anyone else to ever see.

So, my friend, like I said years ago when I was playing my own music regularly, “Pain, I love it, it will make me a country singer…” Then there is the whole other point of view, get up off your ass and go find a therapist who has done their own work and who keeps doing it, a counselor who helps take you into your body as well as your brain, a men’s group who will support you while, as the poet Rilke says:

Sometimes a man stands up at supper and walks outdoors and keeps on walking because a church that stands somewhere in the East and his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

While other men stay inside with the dishes and glasses and dies there while he forces his children to go far out into the world to find the same church which he forgot. Translated by Robert Bly

So Dear Never Felt So Helpless, I see you in the woods, while you wait for direction, wait to be found or on the road and looking for that “church” that can help us heal.

John

THE LONELINESS EMERGENCY: From Isolation to Connection

“…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.