On the Various Burdens and Trials of (a) Shared Life Experience

Loneliness may be to some extent inevitable; suffering as a consequence is probably not…

It is something of a cliché that a person might feel loneliest in a crowd. It is (in my view) uncommonly acknowledged that this loneliness is quite probably implicit in the nature of the crowd, it is of the crowd. It may be similarly said of marriage or at least of most longer-term human intimacies that loneliness or isolation is not always so much experienced in those relationships as it is of those relationships. Negotiating the extremities of (and discontinuities between) individuation and emotional or existential interdependence are skills mostly learnt through the accumulation of error, mistakes or painful experiences; with brief moments of intervening clarity, joy and catharsis.

The intermittent joys of emotional experience are like those television advertisements which generate the value upon which an otherwise melancholy thread of culturally normative programming (or filtered experience and existence) is constructed; we wouldn’t wilfully follow the overall narrative if not for the over-hyped messages and misdirections which lead us to believe there is something worthwhile going on in all this human emotional messiness and confusion. While commercial television seeks to actively obscure that the programming and notional content of any particular channel is in many ways secondary and subservient and essentially an interruption of the primacy of an unrelenting stream of marketing and desire-production, emotional life is somewhat inverted by most of the desire and longing being generated by those vast and empty or bleak emotional hiatuses of everyday existence. The void of loneliness serves as the advertisement for the value of its own inversion in a fabricated, staccato and discontinuous narrative of joy and pleasure in relationships, both significant and trivial; and with varying numbers of other human beings on a spectrum right up into that imaginary collosus of absolutely everyone else on the planet.

A recurring theme for me is that of the unnatural ways in which human beings bind themselves to each other, largely to satisfy cultural or social expectation and tradition. If people were ever empowered with the freedom to express their actual feelings or thoughts on matters such as this, untrammelled by expectation or normative (and narrative) restriction, it may just emerge that those relationships and dependencies which do exist may reveal themself as far more deeply rewarding and fulfilling than they ever could be when in constant competition with what are effectively cultural overlays on biological facts.

It says a lot of the burden of expectations that I would very likely never write this under my own name, that the relentless pressure to conform and to compete in a socio-cultural game of “who can be the most like everyone else” is best rendered out of pseudo-anonymity. Sartre may have been at least partially correct when he asserted that “hell is other people” but he may have also neglected that possible state of successfully disentangling the complexities of our own mental modelling and relationships with all those internalised, imaginary instances of all those other people is about as close to heaven as is agnostically plausible in this life. Loneliness may be to some extent inevitable; suffering as a consequence is probably not.


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