Greta Garbo was one of the more illustrious movie stars who craved to be away from the madding crowd. She and others like Howard Hughes, Harrison Ford and even Tom Hanks have shunned the limelight. Most of them can afford to, but the rest of us like the mix of our fellow men and women in a variety of social situations. The spate of mass killings has brought this more to the fore. This gunman or that, appears to be a loner, detached from normal society, whatever that is. A kid in school who keeps to him or herself is considered a weirdo. Hermits, monks. Don’t they know what they are missing? Maybe.
We are social animals. It has been bred into us for sheer survival. Safety in numbers. Over time that defense alliance has given birth to conviviality. As we trust more, we open up and want to relate our experiences, philosophies and beliefs. We see threads of commonalty and that gives way to a sense of community.
This is how villages and cities and states are formed but hearkening back to that fear of the enemy we become somewhat closed to outsiders. We have our rules and if you want to stay here you better abide by them. Rural areas are notorious by being suspicious of outsiders. North, South, East, West all lay claim to their version of heaven.
The definition of community is all the people living in an area or a group or groups of people who share common interests. I would add, “ and seek the common good. Let’s talk silos if you will. The town splits into several churches or synagogues of religious belief. There might be club formed, be it Rotary, golf or tennis. People of different political views form parties. We keep getting more and more specific as to our wants and dislikes. And we keep parsing this thing called community almost to the point we are no longer one in any respect.
Enter the double edged sword of education. In the little red schoolhouse you didn’t really rock the boat or your mother would know it before you got home. As people started pursuing higher learning they started getting all sorts of crazy thoughts. The more the economically challenged or at least non elites, started learning about the complexities of the world, they began to ask why? Or better yet why not me?
Now you can call that democracy and I will buy it. You can also call it anarchy and I might be prone to agree with you on that also. As we become more exclusionary we go from selfless of the early days to when that good old thing called selfish takes its place. Everyone is fighting for a place at the table whether it be in thought or their pocketbook. In a strange way they want to be more exclusive or dare I say, alone.
There is a huge difference between being lonely and wanting to be alone. In the latter you just want a timeout from the rat race. You want to take a walk, read a book or sing in the shower without worrying about what people think. It is “you” time and very healthy.
Being lonely is a whole other thing. You want to be part of something but there is no way in. Just a smile or friendly hello would work wonders but they are nowhere to be found. You can be left out for your age, ethnicity, religion or political tenets. Your dress and your feelings are contrary to the local rules. Go back where you came from. You are not wanted here. You are too old or too radical for us. Sad but true.
Now most just accept their fate and try to make do. They eventually fade to black, Others sit and fester. Their rage against their fellow man or woman intensifies. They can go online and get really whipped up. In a strange way they are forming a new community. And then BOOM! And we all wonder why it happened. Small town or big city. Why didn’t we see this coming? Why couldn’t we fix it? How hard do we try?
Communities come in all sorts. It could be a family, a street or town. It could be a county, a state or a country. It could be at work or at play. We have common interests. What if we all thought not of our little burghs but a much bigger picture. We are all Americans. Do we really think that way? We are all members of the planet. Is that possible to even fathom?
In Flalaland Kathy and I live in a most unusual place. People are beyond welcoming and everyday it is easy to say hello to a dozen or more neighbors. Nobody really asks what you did or where you came from. Just nice to have you here. That feels good. Will that change over time? Good question. Will more and more new entrants want to have it their way or ours? Or is it possible the change will be gradual and God forbid for the best?
Solitude is good for the soul but many times tough to achieve. Our frenetic world wants us to be accessible 24/7. Every little thing requires our attention. We want to respond and micromanage. For me,I usually take a look at the cliff for the beauty beyond it rather than worry if I am going over it. It has worked so far for 77 years. Do I want to be alone? Hell no! But I worry all the time about those that have no other choice.
Ted The Great
- The number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/6. This compares to around 1.4 million in 2016/7 – a 49% increase in 10 years 
- Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all
- Two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company.
Loneliness does not depend on how many friends or relationships you have. Loneliness depends entirely on the subjective quality of your relationships—on whether you feel emotionally and/or socially disconnected from those around you.
Smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match. It is the best way to make a lonely person feel wanted.
Whenever you go to the gas station, store or restaurant, just say hello and mean it. You might have saved that person’s life or at worse made their day. Think about that.