Humans are a gregarious species. We have a hard-wired desire to belong to a community or tribe or a group of friends. We often choose to work in teams, partnerships or companies. Expulsion from the group or being ignored is a painful experience which can be used to keep members of a group on an accepted path. Children form bonds within a classroom setting, and recreation or free play is often a group affair. Truly, we are gregarious, even though many of us need a certain amount of alone time to recharge.
However, we also live in a world of dualities, a world in which paradox is common enough to often pass unobserved. Look deeply enough, and opposites are linked together in a common continuum, each opposite being true at the same time. Sometimes we can find the linking thought, the balance; when we do, we are better off for the discovery. Heads and tails are parts of the same coin. Sorrow and joy enhance each other, deepening the experience of each.
It follows that being a gregarious species in a world of paradox, we are also quite alone. Yes, we bond together in groups, desire the company of each other; even more than the company, we desire to be known by another. We want someone else to understand and hopefully appreciate us. Sometimes, in the closest of relationships, we come close to that. Yet, even when we are that lucky or successful, we encounter times when it seems that amidst even a multitude, we are completely alone.
In a broad sense, we are never alone; we are all connected in the mystical common web of things, all parts of the original energy of the One. Some have perceived this mystical energy as holographic, i.e., the total of everything is contained within each part. In this sense, we are always connected. It is also true that in order for there to be a universe of entities distinct from each other, instead of a fused glob of energy, there need be boundaries. Boundaries set us apart from not-us and allow us to exist as individual conscious beings. They also ensure that we are alone. We are both alone and connected.
Alone can feel lonely, but it does not need to. Lonely is having lost sense of one’s connection to the whole, feeling abandoned and vulnerable. Alone is the realization of one’s uniqueness, knowing that no matter how well we may communicate, no one else can truly understand the fullness of our being, know exactly what we experience or feel. No other being can make our life’s decisions for us; no other being can take responsibility for those decisions. If we allow, we may be influenced by others, but the decisions are ours. Alone is accepting that realization, and simultaneously enjoying the cosmic connection that is our heritage. Alone is seeing and comprehending the paradox; lonely is seeing only one end.
Some humans prefer to work by themselves instead of in groups; other humans feel a need for more alone time than their peers, desiring time in nature or their favorite retreat. Even those humans, some strongly inclined to isolation, need connection. Most of us need that connection with other humans; a few find it in nature, animal friends or prayer. It is still connection. At the same time, it is essential, especially for those on the more communal end of the spectrum, to realize their own awareness as unique. We are a paradox. For most of us, the alone end of the phenomenon is most difficult to accept. Eventually, even the company, stimulation, adulation (or condemnation) of others falls hollow, until acceptance of aloneness enables our return to connection.
Let us then celebrate with, enjoy and love each other. Let us also allow ourselves to experience the paradox and find time for solitude and the consciousness of our complete aloneness. Let us appreciate both the aloneness and the connection, nurturing our wholeness in the process. Alone is our beginning, leading us back into connectedness in an endless circle. Alone need not be scary when we embrace it.