At present we suffer fewer material shortages and enjoy a more comfortable life than before. What is curious is that this satisfaction on the material level has resulted in a proportional increase concerning people who feel an indeterminate spiritual vacuum. Getting things, we want may momentarily distract us, but it does not entirely eliminate that emptiness. There were real cases of people paying for upholstery and carpet cleaning services while they were alone at home. The only reason was the fear of being alone.
Nowadays tools that are cleverly designed to satisfy the needs of those people who feel empty and distract them from their inner emptiness are continually being developed; they are tools full of mechanisms that trap our attention to avoid being exposed to an unoccupied time in which we might feel the void. Television was the maximum exponent of distraction tools until a few years ago, but lately, it has been replaced by smartphones. We have become accustomed to seeing people hooked to the phone screen everywhere: on trains, on the streets … Even those who cross the traffic lights without taking their eyes off the screen. The people do everything to feel that they are not alone. Go to the mall, put the music or the TV at high volume at home or contract some services like upholstery and carpet cleaning services just to have someone there to say hi.
But why should we try so desperately to kill that precious time of our life by distracting ourselves? If we desperately avoid having time without occupying, it is to flee from solitude and not feel alone. The fear of being alone forces us to stay distracted at all costs to not be doing nothing. But is loneliness something terrible that we should avoid anyway?
Loneliness, solitude, and isolation
The German philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) established three different concepts to refer to the fact of being alone: solitude, loneliness, and isolation. Loneliness is a situation in which the individual suffers from the effect of feeling alone and cannot connect with himself. Isolation occurs when the individual engages in activity and disconnects not only from others but also from himself. Solitude is, according to a highly desirable situation and entirely devoid of negative connotations, which it defines as a state in which “one person is two.”
We must first understand the composition of the human being. I believe that those diagrams that are usually adopted in psychology do not serve to explain thoroughly the various phenomena that occur in the human being.
Two people in one
People have a hybrid structure. On the one hand, we have a base of heart = body that we share with the rest of the animals and is composed of wild principles that come from nature. On the other, the evolutionary process added to that base a mind responsible for processing information that does not respond to natural laws.
The mind carries a tool called language and processes information like a computer, making simulations and comparisons with reality. Its functions allow analyzing, forecasting, evaluating and planning to transform the past and the future, but they do not serve to capture the present. Also, the mind tends to try to control events using a style of “I must” and “I should not.” Therefore, when something goes against their interests, the mind can unilaterally close the gate that separates it from the heart.
As the heart is fused with the body, there is no contradiction between the two. Soul and body always react intuitively and improvised before the here, and now, that is, before the present. And, although the heart also uses a language like “I want” and “I do not want” to express its desires, it has the particularity of not always obeying logic and reasoning as the mind does.
From the explanation that we have just seen, we can understand the “one person is two” statement in the following way. Within each person there are two “people”: one is the mind, which is the part formed by principles foreign to nature, and the other is the “heart = body,” which is the part formed by natural principles. Therefore, in essence, each person is two.
However, when the gate that connects both “people” is closed, communication is interrupted, and the mind only looks at its relationship with the outside. And then she is forced to consider if she is connected with others and what they think of her. This is, precisely, the state to which we referred when we spoke of “being disconnected from oneself” in the explanation of loneliness and isolation.