Monday, September 30, 2013
I have had an epic stretch of fundamental loneliness. I have been home for quite some time - not alone, in fact, in classes, with Dylan, with cats. It does not happen when I am alone - it happens when I am with others. Maybe it is autumn, but I suspect it is other things - other stories. Some of it is my own story - missing my mother, nostalgia and real feeling brought about by various books and movies I've been reading/watching*.
For instance, Davita's Harp by Chaim Potok. It is one of Dylan's favorite novels, and Potok is a favorite author of hers overall. Awhile back, when I was needing to be read to (we have a collection of newer and favorite classic children's books to take care of this, usually) Dylan offered to begin reading Davita's Harp to me. As soon as she began we both knew it was a great idea - she has a lovely voice, voices, in fact, and her reading it out loud really slowed down the process of reading. Though she has read the book many times, she heard things she hadn't picked up on before. Admittedly she knows she is a skipping reader - in the past, for instance, she said she missed a lot of Potok's details because she went from dialogue to dialogue and overlooked the wonderful scene-building.
The process of reading aloud a book with as much space in it as this one is very powerful. Though Potok makes three "books" in one book, and his chapters are quite long (not to mention that reading aloud a book takes longer than reading it to oneself, for Dylan and I, at least, as we are both fast readers), he also puts in a lot of pauses. There's a lot of space - a lot of "nothing happening" and very slow building suspense. Dylan and I both enjoy this kind of thing - luckily - spacious books, photos, art, even spacious life - lots of silence, nothing happening, quiet time together.
But in all that space, there can also arise a sense of loneliness. Certainly, that is one way that Potok is using silence in this book - to transmit a sense of loneliness.
Even in a more mainstream, NYT and Oprah hit like Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which I just finished recently, the loneliness is there - though in her case, it is more the subject of the book, rather than an atmosphere. Her mother dies on the early side, and her struggle with her mother's death - and resultant journey on the Pacific Crest Trail - are extremely lonely enterprises.
What strikes me about all this loneliness, however, is that while it is sad - and occasionally triggering for me - dying parents, abandonment, etc - there's also a deeply comforting sense, for me at least, of truth. Of "this is how things are." Overall, lately, the idea that "life is suffering" has depressed me less and less. There's much more to be written about this - likely an elephant journal post sometime soon - but it goes something like this: accepting that life is in fact quite lonely helps me to relish in and connect with connection when it actually occurs. It also helps me to take it less personally when I do feel lonely, and makes me less likely to view it as something that is wrong or needs fixing. I fixate on it less, and I let it go when it passes.
In the end, this kind of view of loneliness, of existence, leads more to a sense of contentment than one of happiness, as I discuss them in this elephant journal post. Contentment, to me, is the perfect autumn feeling - a sense of rest, a sense of slowing down - out of the speed of summer, not yet under the weight of winter. Sometimes it edges onto a deeper loneliness - alienation or abandonment - but for the most part, this solitude is beneficial and keeps me deeply connected with myself and with all the humans - and other beings - in my life. If it is a fact of life, then there's less to fight - I can save my energy for fighting for more significant, and less just, battles.
*for some films, view my latest post at Memoir Mind.