Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the United States Surgeon General, has declared loneliness a national health crisis. It’s as if the Pope questioned the doctrine of transubstantiation. The pioneer spirit feels a needle puncturing its balloon. It reads like a headline in the Onion, a bad joke.
Loneliness is epidemic, Murthy says, crosses and affects all sociodemographic boundaries and classes. There are no distinctions. The loneliness virus can infect anyone. Murthy recently traveled around the country, and everywhere he went, he talked to folks who questioned their self-worth, their connections to family and friends, the value of their very existence.
We might jump to an explanation, our personal predispositions and assumptions slipping into gear. Apparently, a trip to Walmart to stock up on beer and chips for the big game on TV is not enough to fill the void, but then neither is driving to Rodeo Drive in your Rolls Royce for a new dress. In church, one feels pewed-in, and the kiss of peace lacks true touch. And the more Mega, Meta, or MAGA one gets, the worse the symptoms of loneliness.
Loneliness looks and feels much like depression and anxiety, a lost in the world feeling, made worse by the vast numbers of people surrounding, none of whom one might talk to. One’s old drinking buddy is on the wagon. One’s ex (spouse, friend, religion, school, job) is full of the need for schadenfreude gotchas. One’s pronoun choices come up short. One feels a need to be a verb, as Buckminster Fuller said, only to have one’s grammar or usage corrected. And in one’s own home, one might feel like a direct object, put upon by a subject, or a noun without a verb.
I’m sorry I don’t have a cure, but Murthy has proposed a plan. Might be worth Googling (or see link below). Meantime, I’m reminded of the old Roy Orbison song:
Only the lonely
Know the way I feel tonight
Only the lonely
Know this feeling ain’t right