Only the Lonely

Loneliness, brought on by isolation, is a common emotion during this coronavirus lockdown; and for some segments of the population, it can be deadly.

In fact, recent research shows that, among the elderly, it can be as deadly as many chronic diseases.

For some of us, of whatever age, this emphasis on social distancing has brought on an almost Kafkaesque feeling of powerlessness in light of the quarantine which has erased the boundary between freedom and constraint.

As someone has said, “Many of us are in danger of feeling like Robinson Crusoe with Netflix.”

There’s a good deal of concern in the medical community about the long-term effects of isolation, whatever one’s age. 

A study from 2009 looked at hospital employees in China who were exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which like COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus.

The research found that, three years later, having been quarantined was a predictor of post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Later studies have validated this finding.

It is evident that, even if you are younger, loneliness can lead to angst, dread, and sadness.

Surprisingly enough, some unfortunates are also lonely, even when not alone. I am such a person.

I was born lonely. I have a history of loneliness. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m the sine quo non of loneliness, the ne plus ultra of solitude. Loneliness is my unseen guest at every meal. It is the troupe of my life, the mise-en-scene of my story.

In perhaps his best movie, even better than “Citizen Kane,” Orson Wells is the “Third Man,” a dealer in diluted antibiotics in post-war Vienna, and Joseph Cotton, his old friend, reproaches him for what he does.

They are at the very top of a Ferris wheel at the Prater Amusement Park. Wells answers him, suggesting that he stop being so melodramatic. “Look down there.

Would you feel pity if any of those dots stopped moving?” Sometimes, particularly when alone and lonely, I feel no more significant than one of Wells’ dots.

When I was 17 and new in the Navy, I was 2,000 miles away from home, broke, and lonely.

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