Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Life Class Robert Rowland Smith on Feeling Lonely

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Life Class Robert Rowland Smith on Feeling Lonely

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert Rowland Smith

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To say that feeling lonely is different from being alone has become commonplace: some people prefer their own company and that is that. So, too, is the notion that one can be lonely in a crowd: you spend your days surrounded by others but somehow still feel unwarmed. Less understood is what loneliness actually is.

The great French critic Maurice Blanchot wrote about 'essential solitude', and it's worth stating that there's a loneliness proper to all of us, regardless of how extrovert we might be. Being human involves things that cannot include others; things like going to the dentist and taking exams. Nobody can take your place. But if those things sound relatively ordinary, the same logic applies to life and death. No one can be born and no one can die on your behalf. No matter how full our lives might be, there's an essential solitude that belongs inalienably to all of us; a connection to our fate that can't be taken away. When it comes to certain fundamental aspects of being, we are all alone.

Is such essential solitude the same as loneliness? Not quite. Part of the comfort in having a partner lies in the fact that, although each of you will separately die your own death, you share life together until death does you part. …

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