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Series I - Chapter 42 - ‘Loneliness’
Series I - Chapter 42 - ‘Loneliness’
HER SON HAD recently died, and she said she did not know what to do now. She had so much time on her hands, she was so bored and weary and sorrowful that she was ready to die. She had brought him up with loving care and intelligence, and he had gone to one of the best schools and to college. She had not spoiled him, though he had had everything that was necessary. She had put her faith and hope in him, and had given him all her love; for there was no one else to share it with, she and her husband having separated long ago. Her son had died through some wrong diagnosis and operation – though, she added smilingly, the doctors said that the operation was “successful.” Now she was left alone, and life seemed so vain and pointless. She had wept when he died, until there were no more tears, but only a dull and weary emptiness. She had had such plans for both of them, but now she was utterly lost.
The breeze was blowing from the sea, cool and fresh, and under the tree it was quiet. The colours on the mountains were vivid, and the blue jays were very talkative. A cow wandered by, followed by her calf, and a squirrel dashed up a tree, wildly chattering. It sat on a branch and began to scold, and the scolding went on for a long time, its tail bobbing up and down. It had such sparkling bright eyes and sharp claws. A lizard came out to warm itself, and caught a fly. The tree tops were gently swaying, and a dead tree against the sky was straight and splendid. It was being bleached by the sun. There was another dead tree beside it, dark and curving, more recent in its decay. A few clouds rested on the distant mountains.
What a strange thing is loneliness, and how frightening it is! We never allow ourselves to get too close to it; and if by chance we do, we quickly run away from it. We will do anything to escape from loneliness, to cover it up. Our conscious and unconscious preoccupation seems to be to avoid it or to overcome it. Avoiding and overcoming loneliness are equally futile; though suppressed or neglected, the pain, the problem, is still there. You may lose yourself in a crowd, and yet be utterly lonely; you may be intensely active, but loneliness silently creeps upon you; put the book down, and it is there. Amusements and drinks cannot drown loneliness; you may temporarily evade it, but when the laughter and the effects of alcohol are over, the fear of loneliness returns. You may be ambitious and successful, you may have vast power over others, you may be rich in knowledge, you may worship and forget yourself in the rigmarole of rituals; but do what you will, the ache of loneliness continues. You may exist only for your son, for the Master, for the expression of your talent; but like the darkness, loneliness covers you. You may love or hate, escape from it according to your temperament and psychological demands; but loneliness is there, waiting and watching, withdrawing only to approach again.
Loneliness is the awareness of complete isolation; and are not our activities self-enclosing? Though our thoughts and emotions are expansive, are they not exclusive and dividing? Are we not seeking dominance in our relationships, in our rights and possessions, thereby creating resistance? Do we not regard work as “yours” and “mine”? Are we not identified with the collective, with the country, or with the few? Is not our whole tendency to isolate ourselves, to divide and separate? The very activity of the self, at whatever level, is the way of isolation; and loneliness is the consciousness of the self without activity. Activity, whether physical or psychological, becomes a means of self-expansion; and when there is no activity of any kind, there is an awareness of the emptiness of the self. It is this emptiness that we seek to fill, and in filling it we spend our life, whether at a noble or ignoble level. There may seem to be no sociological harm in filling this emptiness at a noble level; but illusion breeds untold misery and destruction, which may not be immediate. The craving to fill this emptiness – to run away from it, which is the same thing – cannot be sublimated or suppressed; for who is the entity that is to suppress or sublimate? Is not that very entity another form of craving? The objects of craving may vary, but is not all craving similar? You may change the object of your craving from drink to ideation; but without understanding the process of craving, illusion is inevitable.
There is no entity separate from craving; there is only craving, there is no one who craves. Craving takes on different masks at different times, depending on its interests. The memory of these varying interests meets the new, which brings about conflict, and so the chooser is born, establishing himself as an entity separate and distinct from craving. But the entity is not different from its qualities. The entity who tries to fill or run away from emptiness, incompleteness, loneliness, is not different from that which he is avoiding; he is it. He cannot run away from himself; all that he can do is to understand himself. He is his loneliness, his emptiness; and as long as he regards it as something separate from himself, he will be in illusion and endless conflict. When he directly experiences that he is his own loneliness, then only can there be freedom from fear. Fear exists only in relationship to an idea, and idea is the response of memory as thought. Thought is the result of experience; and though it can ponder over emptiness, have sensations with regard to it, it cannot know emptiness directly. The word “loneliness,” with its memories of pain and fear, prevents the experiencing of it afresh. The word is memory, and when the word is no longer significant, then the relationship between the experiencer and the experienced is wholly different; then that relationship is direct and not through a word, through memory; then the experiencer is the experience, which alone brings freedom from fear.
Love and emptiness cannot abide together; when there is the feeling of loneliness, love is not. You may hide emptiness under the word “love,” but when the object of your love is no longer there or does not respond, then you are aware of emptiness, you are frustrated. We use the word “love” as a means of escaping from ourselves, from our own insufficiency. We cling to the one we love, we are jealous, we miss him when he is not there and are utterly lost when he dies; and then we seek comfort in some other form, in some belief, in some substitute. Is all this love? Love is not an idea, the result of association; love is not something to be used as an escape from our own wretchedness and when we do so use it, we make problems which have no solutions. Love is not an abstraction, but its reality can be experienced only when idea, mind, is no longer the supreme factor.