Sunday, August 21, 2016

On Loneliness: 17 Quotes and an Anecdote

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

I was thinking about Swiss psychologist Paul Tournier this weekend, in particular his book Escape from Loneliness which I'd once owned several decades back. Psychologists sit in the privileged position of having people from all walks of life bare their souls to them, and after a long career they have ample fodder for anecdotal material in books and articles.

Thinking about that led to my Googling the word loneliness, followed by quotes on loneliness. This blog post assembles in one batch a few of the many that you'll find if you do the same. What struck me is how many different kinds of people from various walks of life have had something to say on this topic.

And what also hit me was the quote by Kurt Vonnegut that opens this passage today. I interviewed the author once, and to build a rapport I started by stating that in college I'd read all of his books and Herman Hesse's books. He replied, "You must have been lonely." When I asked why he'd make such a comment he said something like, "Anyone who is that into Hesse must be lonely. All of Hesse's characters were lonely."

When he said that my thoughts turned inward. I managed to keep the dialogue going with Mr. Vonnegut but inwardly I wrestled with questions like, "Was I really that lonely? Was I lonelier than I'd realized?"

What I see now is that Mr. Vonnegut himself was well acquainted with this "disease of loneliness" and had I been more astute I may have been able to take a couple minutes to digress on this. Who knows what may have been unearthed?

As for our theme here, there's a difference between loneliness and solitude. I'm guessing that most writers and artists relish their times of solitude. The quotes that follow clarify and amplify what loneliness is in its essence. You can sense a lot of pain in many of these observations.

* * * *

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it's not because they enjoy solitude. It's because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.” ― Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper

“If you're lonely when you're alone, you're in bad company.” ― Jean-Paul Sartre

“When you have nobody you can make a cup of tea for, when nobody needs you, that's when I think life is over.” ― Audrey Hepburn

“If one's different, one's bound to be lonely.” ― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke” ― Vincent van Gogh

“It would be too easy to say that I feel invisible. Instead, I feel painfully visible, and entirely ignored.” ― David Levithan, Every Day

“Nothing makes a room feel emptier than wanting someone in it.” ― J

“We're all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding.”
― Rudyard Kipling, The Light That Failed

“To forget a friend is sad. Not everyone has had a friend.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“Loneliness is about the scariest thing out there.” ― Joss Whedon

“There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.” ― G.K. Chesterton

“Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the numbers of books written because authors couldn't find anyone to talk to.”
Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy

“In the midst of friends, home, and kind parents, she was alone.”
William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair

“The worst thing about loneliness is that it brings one face to face with oneself.”
Mary Balogh, No Man's Mistress

“I have been a stranger here in my own land: All my life” ― Sophocles, Antigone

Meantime, life goes on all around you.

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