I had one last paper to sit for in my college finals, and my stomach was reacting badly to food from the previous afternoon. Feeling suffocated after being cooped up in my hostel room for the first half of my Wednesday, I decided to get out and then drop by the court in college to watch some CF friends play floorball. After doing the mandatory greeting of people on the court, I sat in a corner on the ground, and alternated between watching them play and casually studying the intercultural communication textbook. It didn't really matter though which of the two I was doing; I was really just resting my eyes on something as I got lost in my own thoughts.
People came and went on the court. Some, like me, dropped by without any intention to play and just wanted to meet people. Because I was sitting alone, they would almost definitely come to me to chat. I soon realized, being asked why was I all alone or looking so lonely became an inevitable part of the chat. On occasions, someone in the middle of the game would even pause from running after the ball, look up at me and comment that I looked so lonely.
It was slightly annoying, to have to assure virtually every passing soul that no, I wasn't feeling lonely and that I was feeling perfectly at ease with myself where I was sitting. I was amused though by how of all the many other things people could have noticed and mentioned about me - like say, my frizzy hair - everyone ended up choosing to mention my solitary presence. And, this had to be mentioned with a tinge of sympathy as if there was a reason for them to feel sad for me that I was alone.
It really got me thinking: are humans so inherently designed to desire companionship with their own kind, to the extend that they have an instinctive aversion to the sight of a lone human or have reasons to feel sorry for people they think are alone or lonely?
Many, by the way, use the words alone and lonely as if they were synonymous to each other. Of course, if you were asked to ponder separately on the meanings of the two, I'm pretty sure most can actually describe a difference or two. In my own words, being alone is the physical state of having no one else by your side. And you don't have to feel lousy about that. As for loneliness, I guess that is more of an emotional state - of a longing for connection with other people that is absent, which in turn leaves you with emotional discontent.
But maybe the difference doesn't really matter since most people automatically assume that an individual who is physically away from others is a sorry and lonely sight. And that's the problem. If I ask you now to take a moment to think of a happy situation, I dare say that chances are high you've thought of a birthday party scene, or a cozy gathering of friends in a cafe, or a young family building a sand castle on the beach together - situations that involve people instead of a person. You probably didn't have an image of an old man playing chess in the garden by himself, or of a teenager lying in the hammock as she contentedly reads a novel.
How has society played a part in conditioning the belief that people have to have people alongside them to paint a happy picture of humanity? Can't a person be genuinely happy being her own company? You may argue that a person completely void of human contact will never be a happy person, which I agree. But I happen to think that a person perpetually thrown into the presence of other humans will never be a happy person too, because everyone needs a regular time-out from everyone else.
Time of solitude is not even a luxury to be enjoyed. Solitude is as much a necessity for the well being and sanity of a person, to be able to reflect on his own, as time with others is a fulfillment of every human's need to connect with others. We need both human company and solitude to keep life in the right perspective. We can't live without one or the other. So if we need both, why all the fuss over people who happen to be alone when no major fuss is made for the bunch of girlfriends shopping in the mall?
People fear being lonely. They fear having others see them alone because that may be interpreted as loneliness. In turn, they think the same for other solitary figures whom they come across. It all boils down to self-consciousness and too much care invested on the thoughts of others.
I think there is a certain kind of beauty in being along, consumed by all thoughts of my very own, unchained by the need to be conscious of another's awareness of me. And it doesn't have to mean I'm lonely or longing to be in a socially busier situation.
If God had meant for humans to require no solitude, I think He would have created humans as a chain much like Siamese twins instead of billions of separate physical entity.