We are living in lonely times, but the human conditions make us wonder, are we alone in our loneliness? And that answer is clear.
Benches are places in public spaces where people can sit by themselves, and they are special because they’re not just a place to sit. They’re spots available to anyone and that availability turns benches into opportunities for connections.
What’s it like to live in the most isolated inhabited island in the world? Tristan da Cunha is located in the middle of the ocean between two continents. The residents who live there, all 247 of them, understand a type of loneliness like no one else. But their isolation has, for hundreds of years, been a place that others have learned from: how to survive away from anyone else.
We Don’t Talk About Bruno, the #1 hit song, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda for the Disney movie Encanto, is all about a member of the Madrigal family who no one talks about, Bruno. Encanto is a movie about family, but it’s also about trauma and how families connect, separate and become estranged. For a Disney movie, there are some very heavy themes, including war and violence and ruptures within what family members expect from each other and what they can’t accept.
When we can’t sleep, it’s a sign that we feel we’re in a strange world that can harm us and we need to stay alert and vigilant. We want others to stay away, keep their distance. Sleeplessness feeds on loneliness and loneliness fuels sleeplessness.
Nostalgia allows us to bring to mind past relationships and experiences.It’s a substitute and what sometimes people refer to as a social snack. It’s not the real meal but it can help us get through times when we’re by ourselves – alone. The direct way that nostalgia counters loneliness is it can motivate us to want to connect with people so when you’re feeling lonely, perhaps you go through old photo albums and it makes you want to reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in years.
Temperature can regulate our loneliness and how we warm up or cool down is based on social interactions. Huddle around this episode, where it’s warm and cozy-or cool and refreshing–depending on your needs at this moment.
In the animal kingdom, there are lone wolves – animals who, for reasons, break off from their families, their relatives and even their own offspring in order to form a new family of one. For lone wolves, it’s better to go it alone, than as part of the pack. Humans are no different.
We live in an age of sound and we’re bombarded with noise, from text messages, from Tik Tok, from traffic, from voices always heard around us, through thin walls, constant activities. It is unnerving to feel silence — the absence of all the noise around us. But silence is necessary – it’s positive–because it’s a recognition of all the thoughts that are going on within us when we are alone.
Late one night when he couldn’t sleep, John Koenig wrote up a definition that hadn’t existed before. It was the word Sonder. It’s the awareness that everyone around you is the main character of their own story and he posted this word on his website for the book that he hoped to write one day. That book became The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. The word Sonder became the most famous entry. What’s in a name that everyone can recognize but all of us know it in different ways. Is there a better name than just calling it “loneliness?”