The philosophy of loneliness

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Part 2 of “The Truth about loneliness

Let us consider this little story: The man asks his wife whether she cooked dinner in order for him to come into the house and have his meal (considering that the woman is a housewife and their relationship is normal). His wife tells him “the meal will be ready in 5 minutes”. So he keeps at his job for a further 5 minutes and then goes into the house to find that his meal is still not ready. Was his wife a liar or was she merely stating the fact that the meal will be ready soon? Even though good intentions were there on the part of his wife, she did not realise how quickly five minutes went and didn’t have the meal ready on time. In fact the man had to wait a further 10 minutes for the meal to be finally prepared. He lost 10 minutes from the work he was doing and became a little agitated, affecting his relationship and his work for the rest of the day. Are the negative thoughts going through the man’s mind a result of his wife’s miscalculation of time, or were they a result of his impatience and hence inadequacy in toleration.

If we’re so inadequate in simple situations like the above how could we pretend we know what truth is? Why should we torment our lives to something we may never know? And I heard the agnostics say, “I don’t really care what truth is and what a lie is”. Is all we want to consider that we are whatever we are and we will make the best of it so that we can deny ourselves the possibility of leading a tormented life? Do we feel comfortable with what is occurring around us, as we try to avoid situations that affect us negatively and “go with the flow” so to speak? But then why do we need to think and seek?

If I am asking to be accepted in society I have to abide by its laws of co-existence in most cases despite my personal desires, the same as if I was a jungle animal and wanted to be accepted in the habitat. There seems to be a natural need for the one to be part of the whole whilst the whole needs to be composed by many the one in order to exist.

ABOUT NATURE

Aristotle in “On the Soul” explains what is natural and the different kinds of nature for the various living things. “Plants have the capacity for nourishment and reproduction, the minimum that must be possessed by any kind of living organism. Lower animals have, in addition, the powers of sense-perception and self-motion (action). Humans have all these as well as intellect“[1]. With the use of intellect humans can continue to grow in knowledge and discovery of the world around them. The world around them feeding their existence with oxygen, water, food, earth, sun etc. The world around them being nature. The world around them forming the whole without which we cannot exist, and the whole without each of its parts cannot exist. Even in thought we are attached to nature and its parts, even when in fantasy. Hence we cannot detach ourselves from nature, we revolve around its processes and mechanisms, we feed off them and in return we should supply a creation in the ways of nature in order to live in harmony with our surroundings. However as nature does not feel sympathy for any of its parts, does not forgive nor favor any of its ever evolving matter or values in order to be in complete harmony, don’t we need to have similar characteristics?

Let’s make another assumption: For those very few in our midst who can hang on to true natural values (whatever these are) regardless of consequences, the road is full of thorns and obstacles, which sometimes seem insurmountable. Those few brave enough to keep going would first have to prove to themselves they adore honesty and truth more than their own life and as a way of being at ease with their conscious; a truth that doesn’t consider favoritism to friends or relatives, evolves beyond the cause of co-operation for the sake of survival and carries no limits even when it comes to self-preservation or individual benefit. And finally recognising that the unit can be expandable the whole cannot. If we try to challenge this natural structure we’re doomed to failure from the start. But is nature the representation of truth and what is natural?

ABOUT TRUTH

If it is truth[2] a great number of people desperately seek, or strive for but fall short of their goal, this may be on account of the odds against their personal strength; if we discount the fact that truth may never be found. However the search needs to go on.

Let’s assume that a person can live by what they think it’s the truth. In order to really live by the truth means that you must approach yourself detached from your needs, in fact you are asked to be cruel; firstly to yourself, then to those who you love most, even to the rest of your friends in the extended circle. That is unless everyone around you also lives by the truth, something that in reality looks impossible. A deduction here can mean the weak at heart can never be cruel, especially to themselves, hence they can never be brave, can never live in harmony with nature. But can it be said that the weak are a parasite of nature? Truth has the capacity of either making one great or killing them in the process.

ABOUT HONESTY

There’s more here to think about, a whole lot more. When we decide to follow honesty in our lives we cannot look back, like it is with every virtue. The path is only forward and there’s an inherent need to work out every step of the way how we’re going to accomplish the next goal avoiding a fallout of nature’s beliefs and values; and we need to have a vision we believe in, otherwise we don’t know whether we’ve reached a goal even if we get there.

After all the above another question remains: “can one hope for spiritual completeness by walking down the path of what they believe to be righteous and honest?” Would they know if they arrived at the desired destination? How? The answers could lay in one’s strengths and weaknesses.

I am almost sure I have made some thinkers tired here. Even in my writings, I must be honest and straight forward with my thoughts and sentences which seem so unclear. I have to be honest about what it is that makes me seek truth (if I am) not just attempt to express it without first having experienced it.

ABOUT KNOWLEDGE

With age comes knowledge and experience. And again beware: in knowledge one can learn more than what is good for them; another topic that needs more analysis. One can learn about things and situations that cause serious damage to one’s sense of logical thinking. If this happens it is real progress, but it is not the goal, it is not the destination. It is in those circumstances that the strong (few) need to keep going forward whilst the weak (many) drop off and become a burden of society and to themselves. In extreme situations, whether walking down the path of righteousness or wrongfulness, the weak few can end up becoming disturbed. A disturbed person can easily resort to crime. This is because they need to survive just like everyone else and their mind cannot provide the necessary logical thinking that crime has a dead end. They have found they cannot survive by following the one natural path, because they’re not strong enough to uphold the thought (not teaching) that there’s no truth in their thoughts and actions unless they harmoniously follow what is natural. Their needs continuously clash with those in their environment; they cannot survive as part of a whole. This is why a plethora of what one perceives as needs can be damaging to one’s harmonious co-existence. The unit becomes a disturbance to the whole which then gets rejected.

ABOUT FRIENDSHIP

These days, when I look around me, I see no organic friends, I find hardly anyone to talk to with a degree of honesty. And when I talk about honesty I mean honesty in one’s own perception. When I talk honestly with someone, I get that strange look so well known to me. When I talk about organic friendship I talk about continuous intellectual challenge and debate in order to seek finer ideals, whether for the self or the whole. Let us avoid examining this strange situation here for another time. Loneliness though can really be suicidal. My friends are so seldom and far apart that I cannot call them organic friends. Not the way I perceive friendship.

As a parenthesis I can say that the logically thinking person will ask “what do I perceive friendship to be?”. Well, if friendship is not challenging it will not last, in my mind. If in friendship there’s no debate and a certain degree of antithesis it will relinquish itself to insignificance, even hate. A good friend is one that thinks and seeks improvement as a result of thought. A good friend is not only a carrier of euphemism and praise. Final praise is not meant for the unit, praise has to be mainly for the whole. When the whole is praised then the unit is also praised indirectly. A good friend is a strong advocate of value in challenge.

At times I want to look at my friends in the eye and ask them to tell me what they really feel about me. What I expect they will express is something that is not entirely reflecting what I am. I expect they will be expressing a misconception, or even worse something they concluded out of need or personal benefit. Other times I do not believe they are even interested in finding out whether they’re on the right path. What kind of friendship can that develop to be?

NO CONCLUSION

Arriving closer to the end of my solitary discussion (monologue) here, it is paramount that I show honesty to my nature as indicated earlier. Have I really provided any answers? Have I been challenging enough? How can I know what others feel when I don’t know what I feel? One thing that is certain, today and now I am discovering myself and the discovery is not a pretty one. Am I brave enough to accept it? If not, I could perish one day with the thought that I am not what I wanted to be from the start. If I accept it then there’s no improvement after all these years. OK I can assume that with stability, measure and balance there can be a longer existence. That is because there’s a smaller chance that I will clash with the forces of nature. With longer existence I increase my chances of influence. But first I need to evaluate and judge myself and measure the result; because how can I judge anyone if I cannot judge myself?

Today and now I have been judging myself and I have found me wanting. I found me insecure, perhaps unstable. How can I tell when something I think is or isn’t an attempt at offending honesty when all the above assumptions exist and can never be fully explained? Today and now I have tried to give an order to myself to stop trying to explain; but I cannot obey me. It is unnatural for me to obey this order. I really need to read more and further than that think.

Iakovos Garivaldis OAM
Melbourne


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[1] Wikipedia – The Free Encycolpaedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Soul, 23rd Aug 2011
[2] For referencing the ancients we need to approach Plato’s “Apology” where Socrates talks to the Athenians about truth.

8 thoughts on “The philosophy of loneliness”

  1. Iakovos, you have done us a great service in writing this piece with such candour and specificity. Also, the way in which it is written allows debate due to its questioning nature, which, I think, is what you would want. Part 2 of The Truth about Loneliness certainly has incited a reply from me, one which, however, will not make use of classical or contemporary philosophers, as much as they do interest me. I am so interested in the notion of truth, as much as anything else for its illusiveness. For as soon as we think we might have grasped it, it slips away or changes colour like a chameleon. In saying that I have to admit that I have a small, special writing book within which I write quotations or extracts that I consider profound enough to deserve to be there and the thoughts that finally make it into my little notebook are the ones that ring true to me and reverberate with that truth. If I look through these lines I’ve chosen to write down and think about them in relation to truth, I realise that they’re not necessarily hard truths requiring logic to prove them; they’re truths comprising wisdom, compassion and emotional intelligence, and sometimes they’re cries from the heart, the latter always being true. I’ll give you a few examples from my notebook: “In revelation, man receives, and he receives not a specific content but a presence, a presence that confirms meaning.” – Martin Buber; “A man may say, “From now on I’m going to speak the truth, but the truth hears him and runs away and hides before he’s done speaking.” – Herzog; “When all possible scientific questions have been answered the problems of life remain completely untouched.” – Wittgenstein; “The heart desires more than the head can comprehend, and the head understands more than the heart can come to.” – Freud; and “Love consists of this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.” – Rilke. I must say I love the Rilke quote very much indeed, as it acknowledges the great void that solititude or loneliness can be and in such simple fashion mentions that quality ‘Love’, which for it to shine like the sun it is needs truth and nurture.

    I believe that utilising within ourselves our own sense of integrity and having the courage to make the right decisions with this in mind, while at the same time feeling compassion, or if not that then at least resisting bitterness or excessive judgement of others, goes a long way towards dealing with loneliness. In this we do not need the acknowledgement of others, or their agreement as to the rightness or truth of our thoughts of beliefs. This way of behaving has its own effects on relations with others, as it is true, I think, that we can change ourselves, but never someone else. We can insist on how others behave with us insofar as not accepting behaviour we find abhorrent or destructive, but can’t necessarily change the other person. In this way I don’t agree that we are ‘so inadequate in simple situations’ like the one outlined in your story of the man and his wife. Indeed, it is up to us what we will accept and what we will not. I must say, for instance, that I would under no circumstances accept for myself the behaviour of the man in the story. Yes, it’s a simple incident related, but hugely complicated for all that. It carries with it a notion of the patriarch and his servant and the assumption that because the woman is a housewife she must at all costs bear in mind her husband’s expectations and desires, which is not in this twenty-first century a ‘normal relationship’. If it was ever in fact ‘normal’ it is found wanting, as it’s devoid of everything Rilke has implied in his words on Love. It seems to me that if ’emotional intelligence’ was applied to this story, taking into account the man and woman’s separate situations, the problem would be solved, as each of them would be clear with one another about their particular ‘truth’ and work out a compromise to suit both, thereby allowing each other attention and acknowledgement of self as well as a willingness to please. It would be good for them both, hypothetically speaking, to ‘chill out’ a bit (as my younger son might say), get rid of the expectations and rather military-like order of their lives and maybe share a glass of wine together while the meal is still cooking. I don’t mean to sound glib with that last statement, as I do realise we’re philosophising here, however wondrous things can come from a bit of relaxing and spontaneity here and there. Thanks again, Iakovos, for a thought-provoking piece.
    Liat Kirby-Nagar

    1. Dear Liat,
      It is so encouraging to see that with my piece I have aroused the thinking cells of my fellow writers. So much so that you in particular have decided to comment with such a long and important view.
      As a reply to your thoughts I would like to say first that the little story within was not an attempt to portray discrimination or imply roles. I am happy with each one of us living the life they prefer in their own mindset This was just a philosophical statement for the sake of an argument, in order to deduct some conclusions. And this is exactly what I mean in “We must clear our mind of our past beliefs in order to appreciate the present…” – If we’re carrying all our past experiences where women have been taken advantage of and created the “patriarch and his servant” problem in society we cannot think clearly for the future.
      Of course we don’t want to forget it has happened, and we should use it where appropriate, but here we’re examining philosophical arguments from their very basic root. If we burden ourselves with our past more than we should we will never have a future.
      Besides, we must evaluate everything from the start anyway because despite the ancient sayings and teachings which were made in a completely different world. No overpopulation, no technology as we know it today, no travelling as we can do it today, no relationships as we see them today. Hence there’s an inherent need to re-calculate, re-assess, re-think. This is the base of my arguments. But I do admit perhaps it was not such a great example that I chose. I could have chosen something else just as easily avoiding negative thoughts.
      I do thank you again for your effort to put your view forward as it is only through conflicting views that we can improve and adapt to the new environment we live in today.

      Iakovos

  2. Iakovos, thanks again for part two of your mind teasing philosophical work. When I think of truth, Shakespeare’s words always come to mind:
    “To thine own self be true,
    and it must follow, as the night the day,
    thou canst not then be false to any man.”

    It seems to me, to seek truth is most important. Good literature, or art lives when it is imbued with the truth or purports to the very essence of life. It only succeeds when it is an expression of truth from the heart of the person creating it. The reader or viewer responds to the truth he perceives in the work. Honesty is essential, as dishonesty is a negative force which destroys trust in a relationship. Even when it can be brutal to be honest, at least that honesty can force the truth of a matter.

    THE LONELINESS OF TRUTH – It is very easy to be lonely in a crowd when it seems there is no one in common. But as Rudyard Kipling wrote in his poem “If” –
    “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you”
    then your loneliness in truth is worthwhile.

    Many thanks Iakovos for prompting me to at least think and write something after six months of dreary work pressures. Gabrielle.

    1. Dear Gabrielle,

      How true is the statement by Shakespeare. This is exactly what I meant in my arguments when I said that we must practice truth in our lives every day and with every move and with every thought starting from ourselves, moving onto our immediate relatives, then to our friends etc in order to have a hope of achieving what is desirable. I cannot see how we can force such a torture onto ourselves but we need to at least try.
      In Kipling’s statement also there is so much truth, however in today’s society we have grown enough I hope not to blame each other for a world we alone cannot change. Also I agree that dishonesty destroys trust in a relationship, implying that honesty builds trust in a relationship. But in order to destroy trust there has to be some existing in the first place. Something that goes far enough to show that trust and mistrust are intertwined and none of the two can be completely wiped out.

      I really thank you again for even reading this piece, as I thank every one of my readers, and I hope that I have not disappointed people by this attempt to visit the roots of thought and our existence.

      Iakovos

  3. Dear Iakovos,
    Thank you for your courteous reply and I certainly do appreciate the huge subject you’re tackling and the manner in which you’re developing this. I think the small story you chose for illustration and questioning is fine and it doesn’t matter at all that it might bring forth negative thoughts, for to think is sometimes to be made uncomfortable. My response to it was largely dictated, I think, by the words in parenthesis, “considering that the woman is a housewife and their relationship is normal”, which implied, to me anyway, tacit approval or acceptance of what was to come. This in turn deflected me somewhat from the issue at hand. Although, as I said before, it is a conflict that could be resolved with emotional intelligence, and, unfortunately, to date, that doesn’t rate much of a mention in philosophical discourse. This is one of the reasons more abstract philosophy can’t more readily arrive at ‘truth’ within a more whole framework.

    It’s true, as you say, that the burdens of the past can, if allowed, sabotage our future and it’s also true that we must allow intrusion of perhaps more alien thoughts to penetrate our past beliefs. However, I’m not so sure we can completely clear our minds of past beliefs, unless, of course, we find them to be proved shockingly wrong. I actually think many of the findings of classical scholars apposite, even for our contemporary times, although as fragments rather than as whole truths. And I don’t think people now are so very different from times before, even taking into account modern technology, travel, etc. – we’re still very much made up of the basic needs and motivations that human kind has reacted to from ancient times on. One only has to read literature from different cultures and times to realise this. All thinking and writing is a building block, and imagination connects us to the ancients and our particular forebears: I think this a rich and wonderful thing.

    New ‘truths’ have been discovered throughout the ages, some people dying for the courage of their convictions, as in the persecution of new thinkers by the Christian Church in times past. It seems that many ideas offered to man, be it in the guise of religion or politics, start out as most excellent in form and then become abused by man himself in the practice. You say, “And I heard the Agnostics say, ‘I don’t really care what truth is and what a lie is.’ – I wonder about this, as it is a huge generalisation. Agnostics are only really saying, “I don’t know”, and it does not necessarily follow that they are not interested in the truth or are cavalier about lies. I think it harder for a person to admit to not knowing than it is for someone to make a firm stand. I applaud your exploration of ‘truth’ and your willingness to engage with yourself and others, and truly find the discussion worthwhile.
    Liat K-N

  4. Dear Iakove,
    C o n g r a t u l a t i o n s ! ! !
    (If I add one more word, I feel that I’ll minimize the value of this work of yours- both parts. And, as you know very well, I’m not a fan of either laconicism or… flattery),
    With honour, Aris Adanis.-

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