By Subhasis Chattopadhyay –
When others suffer, do I have the luxury of being lonely? Loneliness is not the same as clinical depression. To be lonely is to be human; to be lonely is to be like unto the Son of Man on His Cross crying out to His Father: Father, why have you abandoned me?
While clinical depression needs medical intervention, and can be treated successfully with newer antidepressants; the capacity for experiencing loneliness and not intellectual prowess defines us as a species. For instance, robots and Artificial-Intelligent entities are intelligent but do not experience loneliness. Yet loneliness is not ennobling like solitude. The lonely suffer and thus bear their Crosses. To perfect oneself in solitude is the way of contemplation; to feel left out, to not belong, to be refused acceptability; to be subtly passed by and slandered: all these lead to intense loneliness.
The paradox of being lonely is that while we should not consciously wallow in loneliness yet being lonely is to be with Christ and thus is to be fully human. Without being lonely we cannot experience God; we will not even turn to God unless we are lonely. But loneliness is not what we should aim for. This is the mystery of loneliness and of the human condition.
Night after lonely night, watching the fans whir; remembering our puny lives and responding to urgent electronic messages while in our tube-rails and virtual lives we are surrounded by hundreds of other lonely people, we can only faintly fathom the abandonment which the Nazarene experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane when His disciples fell asleep and only He alone was awake and praying and sweating blood.
We pop pills to sleep; we drug ourselves trying to fend off this overwhelming loneliness and serially date and divorce; seek human comfort for a condition which is all too human. (In passing it should be mentioned, all electronic messages are urgent. A joke if ever there was one.)
As long as we are here on this darkling plain we will be lonely and like the Mother of Sorrows we will suffer loneliness. At least, none of us have a blameless grown child who was hung and mocked on the Cross for no fault of His own. The Son of Man was crucified and fed gall. The Mother of God suffered loneliness on earth, who are we that we should not suffer from loneliness? We all need to be schooled in the fire of being utterly lonely; to have no material and human support; then alone will we turn to God.
So, while loneliness is necessary and part of being human; how can we manage loneliness? The simple answer is we cannot manage loneliness in ways we can manage stress, clinical depression and other ills. We must accept the fact that only through what St. Ignatius of Loyola called experiments we can come to terms with our lonely hearts. St. Ignatius prescribed different forms of service and a turning away of the being in the here and the now to others in empathy as ways of lessening the paralyzing effects of loneliness which when accepted without discernment, will lead to learned helplessness. Loneliness gives us opportunities to love God in solitude, to practice Lectio Divina or sacred study and to slow down. Most importantly it allows us to become perfect as God is perfect.
Image courtesy: Hope Littwin
Subhasis Chattopadhyay is a blogger and an Assistant Professor in English (UG & PG Departments of English) at Narasinha Dutt College affiliated to the University of Calcutta. He has additional qualifications in Biblical Studies and separately, Spiritual Psychology. He also studied the Minor Upanishads separately. He remains a staunch Hindu. He had written extensively for the Catholic Herald published from Calcutta. From 2010 he reviews books for the Ramakrishna Mission and his reviews have been showcased in Ivy League Press-websites.