An article in the New York times chronicled what happened after a man was found dead in his apartment, days after he died. Thousands of people die alone. There is a whole industry alive to make certain you are officially dead and your possessions will go to the rightful heirs. The investigator stated that his job of finding out about the people who die alone, had changed him. He now made sure he had many, many friends who would find out within 24 hours that he had passed. Interesting concept to make friends so that they will know when you die.
There is a distaste in our society about being alone. A life alone is somehow an empty life. We are expected to search for connection. Connection is what is supposed to make us happy, give us a “full” life. The truth is that connections often make us unhappy. We adjust, make compromises, listen, talk, fight, feel slighted, accept, feel heard, loved, and experience a myriad of feelings that make up the “relationship”.
“We are all connected”, some say, part of a larger community. You can be as involved as you choose, you can write letters to the editor, write your thoughts into a blog as I am doing right now. You can be a volunteer and help out. You can do work that serves the larger community. Sometimes you will get a response and a momentary experience of what, yes what? Belonging? Being seen? Having a face among the large faceless masses?
These days we can connect with others through our smart devices, face time, Facebook and Skype. Are our lives more full, now that we have so many communication devices that connect us with family and friends, bring us the latest news, connect us with what is happening in the world? Before all these devices we had to rely on people around us to keep us connected within the community. I can tell you about the cool breeze coming over the marsh on my morning walk, I can tell you about the dog-doo I have to jump around, because people aren’t picking up, maybe I can tell you about an acquaintance who lost his job, but the extent of exciting news I can convey is limited. The world news and social media trump my news any time. Does it make us feel connected?
The man who died alone in New York was in his late seventies, a hoarder, who weighed over 300 lbs. No family, no friends he was in touch with. Apparently he filled the emptiness of his life with stuff and food. Was his life any more empty than the people who fill their emptiness with people?
I am waiting for a grandson to be born. If all goes well, he will come into the world, latch on to his mother and bliss out on her milk. His birth will be the end of a complete union, and the beginning of a life of intermittent unions, until death separates him for good.
I am getting closer to that end station and I am enjoying longer and longer periods of alone time. On my recent travels, I have spent time among family. Family I belong to, am loved by. In the family, I have a function, I am needed in some small way, but if I wasn’t there, all would be well also. I am not indispensable. My time alone is full. I create, I work on the daily tasks, I enjoy nature. When I am alone, I can hear the heartthrob of the universe better, I sense the ebb and flow of the seasons, I see the expanse of stars and know that I am a pinpoint in a big, empty universe. Knowing this relieves me of needing people to affirm my existence.
When I am alone I feel the space around me, I become bigger than myself.
I experience life as full - full of emptiness.