Table of Contents
Dear Mark (pseudonym),
Summer has been feverish. Puddles of sweat form underneath my forearms as I type away the night in an effort to give a voice to the loneliness I have been feeling of late, but the sweltering heat makes even mundane tasks look impossible, so I have little hope of finishing tonight.
All of life creaks under the scorching sun. Cats that would yell at dawn suddenly find themselves without breath. The grass grows pale overnight. Birds risk death just to get a sip of water from a kind human being. It is at these extremes that I am reminded of life’s fragility and its beauty.
Life slows to a crawl when the sun is on full blast. Your breathing becomes labored. Your bones feel like they have more weight to them than usual. The mind turns foggy from all the work the body’s doing to keep the heat at bay. You’re constantly at its mercy with no relief in sight.
It’s the same mechanism that underlies my sense of loneliness. Bones at a breaking point from the weight they’ve been carrying. Skin longing for touch so bad it hurts something fierce, while your eyeballs sweat from the pain of needing someone. There’s no escape, from neither the sun nor loneliness.
When Summer is inevitably followed by Autumn I always feel relieved. Night sweats make place for nightly runs at sunset. Cold showers wash over the earth. Parched plants drink themselves into a stupor. Beasts awaken to the sound of the new season. You feel invigorated, and life returns.
Drowning in Silence #
Growing up I felt like an observer to life, not an active participant in it; like tuning into a TV set and understanding what’s going on without being in on it. The hands of time moved for everyone and every thing except the mind’s eye. Frozen in time I watched the world pass me by, tired of not belonging.
Why couldn’t I feel life like the rest of the world seemed to? A source of frustration that drove me mad for many a night, but now I know. Being severed from time itself is evidence of an absence; that of the deafening silence of life’s rhythm.
There’s a natural cadence to everything we do, from doing the dishes, to creative work, and the challenges that arise from the changing of seasons, but the lonely man is deaf to the noise it makes. You’re alienated from the world; a stranger to its beauty, and blind to its majesty.
How do you break the silence?
The Depths Below #
A frozen lake stays still until it thaws and even then nothing interesting happens until you make waves. Learning how to unfreeze took many years of therapy, which left me stranded on a lake in which nothing happened. To break the silence of the lake you must make waves, but how do you learn how to do that when every single wave has the potential to attract sharks who hate the noise you make?
It’s hard to make friends when all sharks look like sharks.
Not all sharks are equal. Some are all bark and no bite. The awful thing about sharks is that without intimate knowledge of their nature you won’t be able to distinguish between the ones that are out to kill you and those that just look intimidating. The optimum strategy for survival is to remain still and attract none of them. The awful truth is that you don’t know, and will never know, what dangers lie in the depths below.
You must make noise to end your loneliness.
The Drummer #
There is safety in groups. Groups are a natural deterrent for predators. The Maori understand how fearsome groups can be when they make noise. That is your task and what will ultimately bring you comfort. The safety of your “tribe” provides the basis for psychological safety, but how do you form a “tribe”?
To make friends you’ll have to find your inner drummer and start drumming until your hands are raw. The noise you make will attract people who enjoy the sound you’re putting out into the world. Some will fall in love with it. They’ll want to drum with you to amplify the sound they like.
Life needs rhythm. I enjoy my own rhythm, and there’s great comfort in that. It means I can withdraw when the outside world becomes too much to handle and enjoy myself. If you can learn how to make a noise only you enjoy you’re off to a great start, but to make friends you must be willing to risk being heard.
This is when your loneliness ends and you start enjoying life for what it is. Eventually the noise you’re making with your friends will start to resemble something akin to music. People love music. Keep making your music and people will be interested. That’s the safest way I know how to connect with people when you’re fearful of other human beings.
Your task is to find your inner drummer. It is a daily process of discovery and listening closely. It’s a brutal, frustrating process that will have you doubt yourself. You will want to give up, you will cry, you will struggle, but the process is as natural as a snake shedding its skin over and over again. Snakes don’t complain about their nature and neither should you.
Shedding Skin #
Snakes shed their skin when they outgrow themselves. They get a bad rap but I admire them for going through something as terrifying and uncomfortable as letting go of their old skin for a new one. Snakes do that because they implicitly trust in the natural order of things.
Human beings are the only creatures in the natural world who reject themselves for what they are not. If you want to learn how to live and end your loneliness you too must become comfortable with shedding a skin that doesn’t fit anymore.
When you stop making noise and sit still time comes to a screeching halt. This can be advantageous given the right circumstances, but being frozen in time isn’t where life happens. Observe life and its rhythms, learn how to trust again, and bring about a cacophony of noise only you can produce.
I will be listening.
As long as you live, keep learning how to live. - Seneca