The more things change, the more they stay the same… While not referencing sociological or psychological research here, I believe that life flows in and out of tribal communities and networks where people seek information to solve problems or issues and then recede to their private cabins when they don’t have an issue on the burner to solve. Clearly, large populations of people respond to the crowding in their midst by isolating themselves, if possible, at least for periods of time. Smaller aggregates of people (and animals who may share their dwellings) will gather in a community setting — especially if they are faced with challenging environmental elements that require cooperative living to survive.
Personally, I have been living alone for a good number of years (decades, even). I was married in my youth, and I had three children. I have since lost contact with my oldest daughter (who married well, and lives with her husband in a nice home in the suburbs of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. But I have regular contact with my son and my younger daughter — living in Southern California and in Reno, Nevada. I sometimes have chats with my sister, who lives in Portland, Oregon. Other than that, I don’t have contact with other more distant relatives.
Of course, in my case, I am living in a retirement community house in Washington state — and I can be involved in social activities here, if I want — but mostly I stay home alone. I don’t watch much TV, but I read books, and communicate on the Medium forums here on my computer. So I’m satisfied with my lot.
I think there are lots of folks who are living solitary lives like I am doing, and they are more-or-less comfortable with their chosen lifestyle. They are, and I am, part of the fortunate few who are not stricken by total poverty, nor by deterioration from disease. I certainly “could be” sick — with any number of wasting illnesses (cancer, heart disease, and now in this time, Coronavirus) — any number of unfortunate, potentially incurable, and truly dreadful illnesses.
It is a very unfortunate reality that there are hundreds… thousands… more of us in America, in Europe, in Africa, in South America, in the Baltic wastelands of the USSR … who are struggling with one form of illness or another — we’re not all whole and wholesome. Life is chancy and unpredictable.
But I believe that human beings need to be with one another — at least sometimes, and certainly in certain circumstances, especially when the struggle to stay alive, and to cope with the circumstances around us, becomes too hard to bear without help and care, and commiseration in our suffering and our need. Our need for companionship ebbs and flows, rises and subsides, depending our life circumstances, and how old we are becoming, and how healthy or sick we are.
Some of us seem to be just fine living by ourselves, and coping with our issues alone. Most of us don’t like it too much. While I am accustomed to being by myself, with no one to talk to or laugh with, or commiserate with, I have to try not to dwell on my circumstances too much. I try to call one of my children, or talk with the folks in the dining room. Something… anything… to bridge the loneliness. Writing these little stories in the Medium forums helps.
But ultimately, like most people, I think about my eventual departure from this life, and I don’t like the idea that I may well be exiting Stage Left all by myself, with not a soul that even knows when I have departed. That bothers me, when I think about it. (So I don’t think about it very often.)
Right now, I believe the human race is going through a rough patch…too many of us are living alone, too many of us are suffering from sleeping out in the cold — homeless, too many of us are languishing because we’ve lost the families we were born into, grew up with, or living with in our youth.
These are not optimum times for human social community building, I think.
I hope we grow out of this into a more humane and loving, connected and caring social species. We’re losing our humanity without it.