Here is a post from my previous blog, Loner’s Highway. I was writing about columnist Heather Mallick’s review in the Toronto Star of Olivia Laing’s book The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone. I think this should interest most shy people as well as loners, so I’m repeating it here.
What interested me was the view of loneliness. Some quotes from Ms Mallick’s review:
“Loneliness is a problem felt at one’s core. Are people less connected now and lonelier than before? It may be so.”
“She (Laing) studies the way men and women live now, mostly in cities, and with even less emotional connection because of the falsity of online life.”
“…… In other words, if you feel lonely there may be a cultural reason for that, and it may not reside within you. It may have been imposed on you by economic and social change, and we should work on that instead.”
Though I don’t necessarily disagree with any of that, what strikes me is how much this is the reverse of a loner’s reaction to the city and modern culture, and many introverts. Most loners, and introverts, don’t mind being alone. In my novel The Birdcatcher, character Christopher Stone puts it this way:
Loneliness isn’t the same thing for those who are solitary. Other people feel it most when they’re cut off from each other, when they can’t be together. Being alone is no problem for us at all. By ourselves on a mountain, in a great forest, or out on the sea, we’re happiest, for those are places where we feel at home. It’s when we’re surrounded by people who can’t understand us and won’t accept that we can’t be like them, that we feel what we call loneliness.
Do you see the difference? Not exactly the opposite, but profoundly different.
As far as cities being bad for us, take a look at sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s 2012 book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. He describes a dramatic increase in people who live alone, which he says most of them do by choice. It’s a fascinating book, one that I’ve referred to in more detail in my book, The Shyness Guide, and which I’m sure will be featured in future posts here.
Yes, apparently a lot of people do want to live alone, not just loners.
PS – Heather Mallick’s review, Can we cope with solitary city life?, was published in the March 9/16 edition of the Toronto Star. Here is a link to the full review: