Saturday, 20 November 2010

Alone in an Ultra World

In the age of instant communication it is becoming more and more obvious that many among us are painfully lonely. The internet has become a vessel to escape one's shell, although to me it seems inadequate as a substitute for real connections between people. Such shells may exist for different reasons; debilitating illness, insecurity, or an unsettling physical appearance which drives others away. It's difficult to put a real gauge on it as the person in question, but the latter item has seemed to be one obstacle preventing me from connecting with as many people as I'd like. While I've enjoyed relationships with normal, intelligent people both of a platonic nature and otherwise, there does seem to be something about the imposing figure I cut which puts people off. I remember incidents when I was a child where I was accused of alcohol consumption and petty theft both at school and home, where the only evidence was that I 'looked like a criminal'. Unfortunately, I would go on to compound the suspicions because I felt that if I was going to be subject to such allegations anyway, I may as well get something out of it.

I think back in those days the seeds were planted for me to feel awfully uncomfortable in my own skin, and find it hard to forge what constitutes a full set of healthy relationships with the people around me. And now, Monday to Friday, I go to work and feel lost amongst large groups of people, and it is normal for my weekends to consist of long bouts of involuntary solitude. I am lucky in that I have a son as a focal point in my life, to take my mind off the otherwise peculiar isolation of my existence.

I use services like Facebook and Twitter frequently, and find them a useful means of keeping abreast of developments in the lives of people I know. These are not relationships, but more like portals where everyone has their own - very selective I should think - news channel. There is some kind of vicarious, voyeuristic allure in reading about the lives of others, and sometimes I wonder if it is altogether healthy. However, there have been quite a few occasions where Facebook has facilitated meetings with people who been absent from my life in body, but not in soul, for many a year, and I gained real pleasure from getting back in touch again. Before Facebook, no-frills emailing put me in touch with a circle of friends whom I thought I would never hear from again, and eventually led to my meeting one of them - an individual for whom I have great affection.

Because, to reiterate, I have had some wonderful relationships with people over the years, but in the era of globalization and high speed everything, we tend to be ships passing one another in the night. I actually have a long list of very close friends, but the vast majority of them live in different cities or countries, and having something as old-fashioned as a chat over a few beers is a very difficult proposition.

The older I get, the more I find that while purpose-driven - but largely emotionally unrewarding - relationships are increasingly bountiful, real intimacy is woefully hard to come by. I can't help feel that it is simply me, and not just my appearance, but also my worldview, which evidently is not in tune with most whom I meet. Indeed, my insistence on raising my son as a single-father has in itself proved to be a definitive obstacle when trying to change said familial dynamic, the family of the woman closest to me making the foregone conclusion that there must be something inherently dysfunctional about the parent who got left behind.

And to that woman I dedicate this blog entry.

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