Thursday, July 19, 2007

Loneliness as Cause

What it comes down to, really, is that we're all rather lonely.

Everything we do emanates from this.


Chana said...

By which I mean: consider any evil in society, any ill. Consider any cruelty that lies within another. When is this expressed? Why? When people band together, they do so to feel safe, to feel like they have something in common with their fellow man, to feel less lonely. Even submitting to an authority one despises is preferable to this loneliness...

The same for those who throw themselves into good works; all this interaction with our fellow man, for good or bad, is an attempt to persuade ourselves that yes, we do have our counterparts, that we are not all living our private hells and joys in a manner which makes them totally incomprehensible to anyone else.

Those who try to rise above others and those who try to raise others up, all these people are motivated by the desire to be less lonely, whether it be through putting others down or finding their own equals.

There is, of course, a distinction between being lonely and between being alone.

Jack Steiner said...

The distinction between being lonely and alone is significant.

Scraps said...

Those that are alone are not always lonely, while one can feel lonely in the midst of a crowd of people.

I think that you are largely correct.

Chana said...


It is, and it is not.

For there is also, and this is far more powerful, the feeling of aloneness.

From Rilke's Letter Six:

"There exists only one aloneness, and it is great, and it is not easy to bear. To nearly everyone come those hours that we would gladly exchange for any cheap or even the most banal camaraderie, for even the slightest inclination to choose the second-best or the most unworthy thing. But perhaps it is exactly in those hours when aloneness can flourish. Its growth is painful as the growing up of a young boy and sad as the emergence of springtime.

"But that should not confuse you. What you really need is simply this--- aloneness, great inner solitude. To go within and for hours not to meet anyone---- that is what one needs to attain. To be lonely as one was lonely as a child, while adults were moving about, entangled with things that seemed big and important, because the grownups looked so officious and because one could not understand any of their doings--- that must be the goal. And when you realize one day that their activities are superficial, that their careers are paralyzed and no longer linked with life, then why not look at the world as a child would see it--- out of the depths of your own world, out of the breadth of your own aloneness, which is itself work and rank and career? Why should anyone wish to exchange a child's wise incomprehension for resistance and disdain, since the incomprehension is aloneness, and resistance and disdain are an involvement in the things you seek to escape from."

To be alone and to be lonely are very different; one can be lonely even amidst a group of people whereas aloneness is something you possess, create yourself and within which you take refuge.

Anonymous said...

"...[W]e're all rather lonely.
Everything we do emanates from this."

What you mean WE, paleface?

Anonymous said...

Gosh, add 'Discuss' at the end of that, and it could be an exam question in philosophy, or psychology, or sociology!

I don't quite know how to repsond. I know that I, personally, have led a life that has featured a lot of loneliness (and a lot of alone-ness/isolation too, which I agree is different, although I'm still not sure how positive it is), and a lot of my actions for better or worse have stemmed from that.

Nevertheless, I'm always suspicious of such totalizing theories of human behaviour. I think human motives are complicated, and it is very hard to generalise across history and across cultures, and very easy to project one's own feelings or pet theories (I'm not saying that's what you've done; I'm talking generally). Loneliness is factor, but so are ambition, greed, love, lust, hatred, fear... Of those, I think only love, lust and fear might be described as stemming from loneliness, and even then not in all cases.

Lust, for example, is more or less by definition not about establishing a meaningful relationship with the person lusted after (otherwise it would be love, or at least moving towards it), which automatically prevents the ending of loneliness in any meaningful sense.

As for fear, I certainly don't feel that banding together "to feel safe" is to do with loneliness; it's to do with feeling physically insecure and endangered. Your statement "Even submitting to an authority one despises is preferable to this loneliness" reminded me (deliberately?) of Thomas Hobbes, who famously argued in Leviathan that everyone should submit to a strong ruler or government, even if he/it was tyrannical. However, he argued that the alternative was, not loneliness, but anarchy, "a war... of every man against every man."

I think there are people who revel in their isolation, to the point of deliberately pushing away anyone who tries to come close to them. This may have originally been a defence mechanism against loneliness or it may be fear of change, fear of rejection. We can argue whether that fits your model or not: the person is staying in a contented isolation, because trying to connect with people and failing or being rejected with cause loneliness. But the person may not consciously feel lonely (I know, because I was like that for many years). However, loneliness may have nothing to do with it. Some people are just spiteful, misanthropic or selfish, and get a kick out of being rude to people.

Chana said...


"Loneliness is factor, but so are ambition, greed, love, lust, hatred, fear..."

See, but I believe all this stems from the initial and incredibly human feeling of loneliness.

Ambition. What is ambition? The desire to prove oneself, to set oneself up as the top, the head, the person above all others. This is enlarging upon one's loneliness. I am lonely and I like it. I am going to feel less lonely when I have power over all the rest of you, because that will set me apart and fill me up, make me feel better and happier.

Greed. What is greed but the desire to acquire? And who wants to acquire? The lonely person. The lonely person wants posessions, loves, even other people, because he labors under the delusion that having material things will make him more grounded, make everything more stable, make him feel more like a person.

Love. Love is the ultimate antidote to loneliness, or so one might think. The lonely person always wants to strive to form meaningful connections. This because s/he wants to find someone who is their equal or their better, someone who can understand them and accept them.

Lust. Lust and greed are related, I believe, both of them are quick-fix attempted cures for the human condition; neither of them really work.

Hatred. Hatred comes from seeing others as different and noting the differences rather than the similarities. Hatred can be enforced due to loneliness or rather, the fear of being lonely. People who fight against others can view the world in simplistic form; I am right, he is wrong. I want land; he has it. I am good; he is evil. I will band together with all these other people and fight against him and that will prove my superiority and give me purpose, letting me feel a little less lonely. Alternatively, hatred occurs due to one's loneliness and hatred for those who one sees as not suffering as he does.

Fear. Fear exists on multiple levrls, the simple fight or flight response when one's environment is threatened to fear of possibilities and the potential for change. Of course fear can be caused by loneliness. When one feels lonely, one fears that one is different, crazy, deeply flawed or otherwise inadequate.

I agree with you that such totalizing theories of human behavior are incorrect and a mere projection of the self, hence I will amend this to say much if not all of what we do and how we relate to others has to do with man's innate loneliness.

Anonymous said...


I'm afraid I'm still not convinced. True, lots of emotions or actions can stem from loneliness, but that doesn't mean they do. For example, you say "And who wants to acquire? The lonely person." I'm not at all convinced by that. Even ignoring whether every lonely person makes the mistake of thinking material goods can change his life, not every greedy person is lonely. Or rather, appears lonely. Because when we get down to it, this is untestable unless you ask every single person how they feel, and assume they answer accurately; not just that they don't lie, but that they understand themselves deeply, because you are arguing that almost everything is driven by loneliness at a deep, subconscious level. So I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree about this, as there's no way we can realistically argue it out.

I also think you're confusing 'loneliness' with 'inadequacy' in some places. They are linked: lonely people often end up feeling inadequate, but not always, and inadequacy (real or imagined) can exist independently of loneliness. I think it is inadequacy that often lies behind things like greed, ambition, hatred and fear, rather than loneliness as such.

All that said, I suspect I'm not a good person to talk about this. My own bouts of loneliness tend either to make me feel unique, that no one else in the world feels like I do, or else to see myself as an archetype, humanity personified. Either way, it's a bias which prevents me examining the issue entirely dispassionately.

Anonymous said...

A person might experience loss and then feel lonely. The loneliness is not the cause of the loss.
A person might be greatly hurt and then feel lonely. The loneliness is not the cause of the hurt.

Anonymous said...

Some people feel unsafe unless they are alone, and while the loneliness is miserable, choose that over being in danger.

the only way i know said...

we are all looking for connection (deep down, we desire a spiritual connection with G-d) -
it's what motivates many of our actions

Anonymous said...

What are you basing this on? Your own experiences? Why is it exactly that you feel so lonely?

Most (probably all) psychological theories say otherwise.

Sarah Likes Green said...


Chana said...

This post is not meant to be my analysis of the world or an actual psychological theory. It's simply my thought one day in July. Let's not make it more than that, please? Thanks. As always, my thoughts and ideas are subject to change.

Anonymous said...

"Let's not make it more than that, please? Thanks."

You’re surprisingly obnoxious.

Chana said...

Why surprisingly?

Anonymous said...

I am the Anonymous who posted twice during the 6:00 p.m. hour. I just want to note that I am not the same anonymous poster as the subsequent one(s).

Anonymous said...

"It's simply my thought one day in July. Let's not make it more than that, please?"


haKiruv said...

This is an interesting post. It reminds me of trying to exist apart from our Creator, like Adam maybe. Yet, do we truly exist (have absolute existence) apart from our Creator? Could this feeling of being alone (having absolute existence) catalyze the evil inclination?

If we saw each other as part of a bigger whole, we would be more apt to help and give power to our good inclination.

I actually named my blog haKiruv for this reason. I didn't want to feel lonely anymore, so I started to reach out and find common things that we can all be positive about. I try to at least. This is something that comes to mind when recited Shema, for instance.

Anonymous said...

“Why surprisingly?”

Your obnoxiousness doesn’t surprise me. I’ve noticed it for a while now. Well, that and your inflated sense of self importance.

Chana said...

How lovely of you to take the time out of your day to inform me of this. I quite appreciate.

The lovely thing about having an inflated sense of oneself is that one can laugh at the comments of people who apparently never were teenagers, never were stupid, and never acted in any kind of foolish manner. Oh, you paragons of virtue! How I admire you. Do shed more of your wisdom on me; I bask in its glow and am enlightened.

Jack Steiner said...

(deep down, we desire a spiritual connection with G-d)

That is not true for all people.

Erachet said...

"(deep down, we desire a spiritual connection with G-d)
That is not true for all people."

I actually think it might be. It is human nature to crave connection with other people. People are not meant to be alone, as it even says in the Torah, God saw it was not good that Man was alone and so he created Woman. I think that, in respect to God, most people (if not all, probably all) want some sort of connection with SOMETHING, even if it is not the God we know or if it is not even a god at all but rather science or something else. People need to be connected to SOMETHING, need to believe in SOMETHING.

Anonymous said...

Lulz!1!! OMG! Im also a teenager@!! Ignore my previous comment, im just a stupid teen lol! Havent u ever done anything stoopid?

i like how you use the whole "im just a foolish teenager" to avoid any type of criticism. This reminds me of when john stewart would appear on many news programs discussing serious issues. Any time he would get knocked or criticized he would quickly whip out the "me? im just a silly comedian".

Im not sure the "im just a foolish teenager, lulz!" defense is too convincing when you’re discussing topics like nietzsche or psychology.

If you dont want to discuss the topics you post about, why bother leaving the comment section open? I guess you’re just hoping for the usual sycophant-ish praise that your pseudo intellectual BS normally garners.

Chana said...


Thanks for providing entertainment this Friday afternoon. I really do appreciate it. Your mockery of me is quite deserved and I love it.

Rock on!

Chana said...

Incidentally, I wonder, other than coming by for the pleasure of insulting me, why do you bother to read what this pseudo-intellectual has to say?

Of course, the whole pleasure could be in the opportunity to insult me...hmm. I'd have to consider that. Only, one would have to wonder about your maturity level, then. And I wouldn't dare question that...

haKiruv said...

I found the elite-speak LULz!!! OMGBBQ!! stuff fun.

Anonymous said...

"Oh, you paragons of virtue! How I admire you. Do shed more of your wisdom on me; I bask in its glow and am enlightened"

Doth mine eyes deceive me??!! Be that...sarcasm??? ;)

Chana said...



Hakiruv, it seems to me that you want some steak...or hotdogs...or some other form of edible item.


Okay, I love that. From now on, y'all, OH MY GOD BARBECUE!

Chana said...

Occasionally and very rarely, I resort to sarcasm, my dear G.


haKiruv said...

You got it Chana. Oh My Goodness or the like. Have fun with it. Amaze your friends...great for parties. You all are so funny. Speaking of BBQ, I'm going to go cook out on this fine afternoon. l8rZ!!!11!!oneone

Anonymous said...

Occasionally and very rarely

--Yeah, yeah, that's how it starts. Next thing you know...

Chana said...

Next thing you know, I become a MONSTER (insert clever Quasimodo song here: who is the monster and who is the man?)

Now go read my newest post, G. You will appreciate it.

Erachet said...

But a monster who likes friendly barbecues nonetheless, Chana.

I can't believe you've never heard OMGBBQ before. OMGBBQ! =D