Pure signal.

I’m lonely.

Not ever knowing the contents of another persons head, we are, essentially alone. Of course, this kind of alone, being inescapable and ultimate is not what we mean when we say we feel alone. “I feel alone.” usually means “I feel lonely.” or “I am incapable of distracting myself at this point in time, so I wish to be distracted by others.” This, even when it bleeds into a specific disappointment — is by far the most common meaning. Which is where all of the helpful advice to seek distraction — join a club, get a hobby, take a vacation — comes from. Addressing a triviality with trivialities.

“I feel alone.” is sufficiently indistinguishable from “I feel bored.” as to warrant the same remedy in most cases. In fact, “I feel alone.” might be wholly reducible to “I am bored and slightly horny.” Many people (a disturbing number of them being over 40 and wearing purple) will tell you that there is a vital difference between “I feel alone.” and “I feel lonely.” I think a predilection for this distinction translates well into “I feel bored and slightly horny, and I have read far too many self help books, so I have replaced my capacity for empathy with a shallow, broad and smug collection of re-framing and redirecting strategies which really should only be used by someone with insight, but which I feel free to trot out whenever the occasion affords.”

These are the same cats who hyphenate realize.

A somewhat more sophisticated, if ultimately equally phony re-framing strategy is this: (I am offering this on the off chance that you haven’t heard it before, because it is published in fewer self-help books.) If you are disappointed at not being distracted by any of the people in your life, then that means at this moment you are entirely free of interpersonal compulsion. In other words — usually, in the presence of others, we at least need to take their objectives into account enough to come up with some kind of strategy to deceive or evade them, but if no one is around for us to occupy ourselves with, all of the mental effort we would use for that purpose (or any other) is free for something else.

So an interesting question has the opportunity to arise — What is it, really, that we want to do?


January 13, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Tip toeing through differing definitions of what is ‘alone’ and what is ‘lonely’ or ‘bored shitless’…. ‘Alone’, as you say, is separate in terms of what’s in your own head and can never truly be understood or shared entirely with anyone else. ‘Lonely’ is the perception of non-interaction with others. Bored shitless is pretty straight forward: lack of fresh stimulation (and roughage).

    What’s more important is how that perception of ‘lonely’ makes you feel and what you propose to do about that state, if anything at all.

    I think there is definitely a general trend for people to bewail their state of ‘loneliness’ and rush out to do Iyengar Yoga or pottery or writing class to distract themselves. Not because they really wanted to do those things in the first place (well.. perhaps they did, but they could have done this by themselves).. but primarily it’s because they perceived themselves ‘lonely’ and wanted the company of others. The activity is simply the conduit for interaction and distraction.

    The fundamental question is less about distraction and more about interaction (or lack of it) – are we capable of carrying on doing things in a permanently lone state – or is it a human fundamental need to be with others? And why? Is it essentially a human trait to need the company of others on a primal emotional level – let alone intellectual?

    If we can, and do go ahead and be alone, without interaction with others what do we do? …Quite possibly simply pursue the things that interest us, that we want to learn… but that’s on a purely intellectual level. If we want emotional stimulus then perhaps that’s where we need other living, interacting entities – even if it’s only the company of a pleasant pussy.

    …Is this where we came in with bored and horny?

    Comment by Jill | January 14, 2008 | Reply

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