“One of the many ways we have made ourselves lonely without gaining the deeper nourishment and intimacies of true aloneness, is the way we have lost the greater supporting circle of friendship available to us in the created, natural world: to be friends with the sky, the rain, the changing light of a given day and the horizon always leading us beyond the circle we have drawn too readily for ourselves.” – David Whyte, from the forward of Essentials
I’ve often wondered at loneliness. I’m rarely lonely, but I’m often alone. I think the root of it lies in Whyte’s observation about the greater supporting circle – a connection to the world around you and with your own inner voice. Nothing awakens your relationship with the world like lingering with it on its terms.
One of the things I miss about having a dog is that forced connection with the outside, no matter the weather. It’s easy to just stay inside when it’s raining sideways or bitter cold. But having a dog forces your hand – they’ve gotta go, and you must connect them with the place they go. Letting them out is a cop-out. You must walk as a true offering to the pet gods.
This connection to the outdoors doesn’t require a dog, I’ve had similar connection with hiking, rowing and sailing where you’re forced to deal with nature as it comes to you. When you’re a small part of the natural world you tend to see it differently than you might looking at a screen from the comfort of a favorite chair. Nature demands that we meet it with respect and reverence, and in return we awaken something deeper in us.
I suppose a circle drawn around us feels like a hug or the blankets you pull over yourself on the coldest nights. The problem with a tight circle is that it’s inherently limiting. Getting out under the open sky and feeling the elements, you recognize that you’re alone, yet a part of something bigger than yourself. When you see the world outside that old circle, you’re never quite the same.
Loneliness is a state of isolation derived from looking inward. Connection is looking outward, and beyond yourself. Stepping outside the circle is a courageous act if you haven’t spent much time there, but it leads to a world that is alive with wonder. A sensory world of conversations in many dimensions. A world where we can become more than whatever it was you were when contained in that circle. That’s where you’ll find larger possibility. You’ll never be lonely outside your comfort zone.