Saturday, November 8, 2008

Isolation and Aloneness

Funny words to say, but English doesn't really have a good equivalent to something that means both "isolation" and "aloneness". The Spanish equivalent is "soledad", unless I've misunderstood how it's been used. However, the related word in English "solitude", lends a feeling of tranquility, and not of isolation.

So, all of this came up as I was reading Aldous Huxley's "Island". It's a great book, and I highly recommend it. Evidently it is his last work, and the one in which he elaborates on most of his philosophy that he has developed through the course of his life. But in it, it contains this quote:

"In solitude, for of course nobody can help, nobody can ever be present. People may stand by while you're suffering and dying; but they're standing by in another world. In your world you're absolutely alone. Alone in your suffering and your dying, just as you're alone in love, alone even in the most completely shared pleasure."

This quote struck me because at once my mind is agreeing and disagreeing with it simultaneously. In the depths of my depression, this quote made absolute sense, although the reference to being alone in love while sharing yourself with someone...cuddling and caressing them while simultaneously feeling so absolutely separate from them, seems to me to be the saddest thing in the world.

You may feel alone while you're suffering and dying. This is completely plausible to me. No one can understand what it's like to feel what you're feeling when you're in the depths of depression and honestly wishing you had the courage to kill yourself. Only another currently depressed person can even remotely begin to appreciate what it is like to have your mind wish to be dead while at the same time trying to fight with itself to stay alive. Although I cannot fully understand what this is like, I also imagine that it is equally isolating to be diagnosed with a deadly disease or condition and know that you only have a few months to live.

In death, one is truly alone, and no one may follow you there. This was made extremely clear to me last February when my granddad (my mom's dad) was in the hospital because a leaky heart valve that hadn't been diagnosed for over six months finally burst, and he was essentially waiting in the hospital for his heart to finally give out and for him to die. Sadly, he also went into the hospital a few days before his birthday. I had already planned to come visit him that weekend for his birthday, but instead of visiting him just to celebrate his birthday, it was also to say goodbye. The hardest part about the whole thing was that he wasn't ready to die. If his leaky heart valve had been discovered six months earlier, then maybe he could have undergone surgery for it. But now, the likelihood of him dying on the operating table was extremely high. So we could only just stand there by him and watch as he struggled to breathe and as he stated that he wasn't ready to die and looked scared. Considering that I had only been feeling a bit better from my depression for a mere two months, I found it all extremely symbolic. It scared me that someone who was just turning 82 could be that scared to face death, and even more so that they had no choice in the matter. I couldn't even imagine what he was going through for those couple of days when he realized that the hospital could only do so much to support him, and that he was going to die whether he was ready for it or not. By the time he finally passed away, he was at least ready to face it, but I don't think he was necessarily ready for it.

That experience left me with a very non-peaceful view of death. Yes, maybe death could be peaceful in that if you are lucky, you will pass away in your bed while you are sleeping one day when you are extremely old. But I don't think it necessarily happens that way. And the knowledge of upcoming death is extremely scary and isolating. There is nothing that anyone can say or do to make it better. Things are not going to be okay. Nobody can follow you wherever you are going, whether it simply be the ground, heaven, or another life. Death is a stopping point at which the living must leave you be and only the other dead await you (at least, if you believe that there is a heaven and that you don't just get put into the ground to rot, or reincarnate as another person or animal).

So yes, death is a truly isolating experience. But love?

Love is the one thing which you can share with another person. So it is beyond me how Huxley can claim that love is an isolating experience which makes you realize how truly separate you are from other people. If anything, it should be the experience or act that makes you realize how truly inseparable you are from someone. In which all the world should suddenly align and just make sense. Or even if it doesn't make sense, at the very least everything should be at peace.

It makes me sad to think that someone should feel alone in love. If that is the case, I don't think that can be called love. Maybe a gross perversion of love in a world where there is so much hate and sorrow and too little kindness and generosity. But it is definitely not how love should be.


Nisan said...

Would the word "aloneness" alone suffice to capture the meaning of "soledad"?

You are of course absolutely right about love.

Vaaht said...

I forgot to respond to you. o.o

No, because "soledad" also has the peaceful connotation of "solitude" as well as the connotation of being "alone" or "isolated".

*shrugs* It's a complicated word...