“We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will.”

-Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

This quote was in my inbox today, as part of my A.Word.A.Day email subscription. I like it.

I think I write a lot about loneliness and belonging–not consciously (for the most part) but it’s a theme I can recognize after ten years of writing and looking back over my work. I have come to understand that all people are lonely, no matter how surrounded by others, no matter how bustling their lives. Some people are comfortable with this feeling–embrace it even. Others spend a lifetime trying to avoid feeling lonely, seeking action and activity to keep that desperate feeling at bay.

I believe the biggest part of loneliness is the feeling that one is never quite fully understood. But that is part and parcel of the human condition and the best that we can do is to try and understand one another as a way to keep that loneliness (“longing” might be another apt descriptor) at bay.

In her songs, Tracy Chapman writes a lot about loneliness, belonging and longing. I kept a CD of hers handy during the writing of my most recently completed novel as a mood setter because I wanted those same themes expressed throughout my story.

I also write about poverty, a condition that definitely breeds such feelings. But…the more I think about the rich people I know, the more I understand that they are just as lonely, just as filled with longing…

Maybe Thoreau was right. The more we try to escape it or ameliorate it, the more solidly loneliness is with us, universal to the state of being human.






3 responses to “Thoreau”

  1. katrina Avatar

    Great post, Mary.

  2. Stephanie Avatar

    Maybe the other part of loneliness is alienation, which can come from being poor or rich or even in the shrinking middle class.

  3. Mary Akers Avatar

    Yes, Stephanie. I’m going to use that. Stay tuned.

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