Alone: There’s the physical, intellectual and emotional state.
When I think of those who are physically alone, I think immediately of Robinson Crusoe and prisoners in solitary confinement—in both cases, of people for whom aloneness is imposed. And I am led to conclude solitude is dangerous: Solitary confinement is society’s greatest punishment and Crusoe is “saved” from madness by Friday. But in both these cases, aloneness is imposed.
When people choose solitude, their journeys are not easy but their anticipated outcome is enlightenment, not madness. Chosen solitude is tough but not dangerous.
When I think of intellectually alone, I think of Einstein, Beethoven, Stephen Hawking and savants. And I am moved to reflect on the price of intellectual greatness; nothing strikes me as sad and lonely as intellectual superiority; poor Stephen Hawking had to wait for his insights to be understood before the brilliance of his insights could be appreciated. Still, the expectation is that intellectual solitude is ultimately rewarded.
Emotional isolation is a hydra.
Twins who lose their sibling twin experience profound emotional aloneness. Those for whom physical isolation is imposed do as well, but they have hope; their isolation may or will end. People with mental health issues that alienate others may feel alone, but few understand their condition. Orphans—legal or psychological—also know profound loneliness.
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. I am swimming alone in a large, large sea. I swim and I swim as lonely turns to angry and wanting to withdraw from everything. And then the circle is complete.
This is mid-latitude winter depression. Welcome to my world. Walk in the sun. Write it out. Walk in nature. Write some more. Use the gestalt chairs and walk some more. Walk until the long days of short shadows.