Yesterday on the way back from lunch I found myself walking alone through the skywalks. Normally I’m with a friend or two but things had worked out such that the friends I had lunch with went their separate ways back to work. The skywalks were busy with people heading to and from lunch and as I walked, I returned the glances of the folks walking in the opposite direction. More often than not, I sensed a feeling of loneliness, especially with those walking by themselves. There was also a hint of searching in their gazes, a longing to connect with someone. A glint of hope for friendliness quickly veiled behind urban coldness as they faded back into the crowd.
It’s sad to realize that so many people in society today have few, if any, really close friends. We live our lives on autopilot, going through the motions, doing what’s expected of us. Never taking the time to truly connect with the people around us. I can relate. I’ve been through this. In a sense I’m still going through this, at least some of the time.
There are those who’ve embraced online interactions as a replacement for face-to-face relationships. This does help fill the void but it’s not the same. Sure there are advantages. It’s easier to find like-minded people when you have a much larger pool to draw from. But our current technology only allows shallow facsimiles of true communication. In person interaction is such a high bandwidth channel encompassing all the senses, both known and yet to be discovered, that we can’t even come close to duplicating it. Maybe someday, but not today.
Despite being blessed with a good group of friends that have held together across five work areas in three different companies, I still feel the pain of loneliness from time to time. As we age, it becomes increasingly difficult to hold on to our friends. People change, times change, life goes on and people once close to you drift away as their interests and activities take them in different directions from yours. You find yourself trying to connect with people you see rarely and with whom you only have a tenuous commonality. Dare I say this is a curse of modern society?
I have no answers here, only observations. And a depressing awareness that I too, share this curse with the masses. It’s easy to wallow in self-pity or drown oneself in busyness in a vain attempt to forget. Maybe it’d be best to just accept this current state of affairs and find solace in the few relationships remaining. Embrace the fleeting interactions with neighbours and coworkers brought about by proximity. Celebrate the fleeting moments of true connection that occur oh so rarely and cherish the memories of the truly wonderful events of our lives, as few as they may be. I don’t know…
We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone. – Orson Welles