What do we do with our lonely moments?
Loneliness: “A depressing feeling of being alone, dejected by the awareness of being alone, unhappy as a result of being without the companionship of others”. These are a few of the descriptions of loneliness. And yes, they certainly do capture something of how loneliness might feel. The loneliness of aloneness. The pain of being alone. But loneliness can also be deeply felt when surrounded by people, when busy and leading a full life, or in a relationship with someone. Loneliness can be crippling and destructive. It can eat away at the spirit. So what is aloneness and what is loneliness, and how might we live creatively with them?
The early to mid-twentieth-century theologian, Paul Tillich writes: “Man is alone because he is man! In some way every creature is alone. In majestic isolation every star travels through the darkness of endless space. Each tree grows according to its own law, fulfilling its unique possibilities. Animals live, fight and die for themselves alone, confined to the limitations of their bodies. Certainly, they also appear as male and female, in families and in flocks. Some of them are gregarious. But all of them are alone! Being alive means being in a body – a body separated from all other bodies. And being separated means being alone”. Tillich then goes on to say this about the particular human experience of aloneness: “He is not only alone; he also knows that he is alone. Aware of what he is, he asks the question of his aloneness. He asks why he is alone, and how he can triumph over his being alone. For this aloneness he cannot endure. Neither can he escape it. It is his destiny to be alone and to be aware of it”. Long before Tillich, the Psalmist of ancient Israel, in the Book of Psalms, uttered this cry of awareness too, “Turn to me and be gracious for I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalm 25).
Ms Kerry McCullough
Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator