The static hiss kicks in just before they connect you to the line. You join the channel in the middle of a series of commercials. Unlike most commercials, you listen hard to them. You are trying to ascertain what kind of demographic of people listen to this station. It will alter your style of delivery. Music starts playing and the intro to the show begins; an upbeat elevator pitch that tells you why this station is the place to be. The way the host introduces you, makes you wish you could shrink them and put them in your pocket to carry around on a bad day. Every so often, when your self-esteem begins to decrease, you could just lift them to your ear and hear them introduce you again
For the last month, I have been on at least one radio show a day, sometimes a few a day. At this point in my career, I could write a book on interviewers. The style with which an interviewer conducts himself or herself changes the entire chemistry of the experience. Radio show hosts are definitely not created equal. Sometimes, even the best speaker in the world could not save an interview with a poor host. But a truly great host could lead even the worst speaker in the world into creating an entertaining show. I have been on these shows non-stop to introduce the concepts contained in my new book, The Anatomy Of Loneliness, which is hitting the shelves in just over two weeks. I will be on European tour when it happens.
Loneliness, by its very nature, tells you that you are completely alone. When you are lonely, you are not a match to other lonely people. You are a match to watching everyone else seem like they have connection. With true loneliness, it doesn’t matter if you are technically in the room with another person or a group of other people. You feel like you are living your life behind a one-way mirror or a pane of glass. You can see them and hear them, but there is this separation between you. A separation that ensures that you can never quite touch. You will never get close enough to actually be together. It is as if you are living in two separate parallel realities inside two invisible bubbles, whose membranes keep your two worlds apart, even though they technically exist within the very same physical room.
I wrote this journal entry at 17 years old, the year that due to this isolation, I became obsessed with the idea of committing suicide:
No room, No home,
Subdued by an unwanted joker card, waiting, but not yet drawn.
Is it your turn this time or mine?
This is wide eyed blindness.
This is what it is to be goal oriented with the destination covered in un passable cellophane.
I am left watching through it what I want but can't yet have.
I don't want to feel this fold around me, and be the one who is no part of anything at all.
This is a train wreck fantasy with no longevity to begin with.
I don't recognize this body.
Men say they love it... oh, and me.
Those words are a hand wrong way rubbing velvet.
Have you followed my path of bleeding pain? To put me in a timeout, again?
No more eating or sleeping or living under the swing of each vulture's wing, waiting for permission to feast if I fall.
Will I be drug to death by my own life and put to sleep by my own hand?
Time here on earth is liquid where you can't swim fast enough and desire is suspended out of reach.
I hide here under the fabric I pulled over my head this morning; It'll have to fray on top of me before I take it off now.
What sort of place is this if events which happened 3 minutes ago, feel light years away?
What happens when you become blind to all miracles?
No one has ever decided what is an easier sanity, freedom or cages with a scheduled feeding and exercise time.
And no one tells you; you can only wear the rubies and gold found here until you're dead.
So why try and claim this gold coated glory? While wishing too much...
To see the world in a grain of sand, and the universe in a sand castle.
I wish I didn't drown people in the overflow from this little cup I plan to drink my life from.
I wish I didn't only take a burlap sack from idea to idea and leave them, burning all bridges behind me so none of them could follow.
I wish my anger wasn't so acidic, and sadness so basic that both of them burn.
I wish I knew what sins could be forgiven and that kindness could feed the world instead of sugar coat it.
Is there a place where even silence can't be heard?
Because the quiet there, is just loud enough to talk me into being nothing but me, which is so solitarily familiar, it isn't even me.
I wish I wasn't left wanting of a time where I still believed that an ocean existed inside every spiral shell, and that the sound there was waves instead of a change in the god damn air pressure.
I wish I could stare at a grain of sand and feel the world. Instead of walking whole beaches and still feeling completely alone in the world.
I was tortured by this kind of aloneness. For so many years, my life was an exercise in isolation torture. But THIS kind of isolation torture… The kind where no one sees it for what it is, because instead of seeing you in a cement cell, by yourself, with no sunlight, they see you living in a house with your family. They see you sitting in a classroom with your peers. They are fooled by physical appearances.
I am a relatable person. I am also not a relatable person. I am both of the earth, and not from the earth at all. People struggle to accommodate this reality. If you have an origin or a perspective or a talent or a difference that sets you apart from other people, it is hard for anyone to relate to you enough to feel as if they are capable of occupying the same perceptual reality. When I am struggling with this, I remind myself that Tesla felt the same way. So did Leonardo Da Vinci. So did nearly every artist throughout history, every unbeatable athlete, every immigrant who moved to a foreign culture, every pet who is adopted. People beg me to be more relatable. But I can’t be. For this reason, I still struggle with aloneness sometimes. But not like I used to. I have found people who can penetrate the walls of my being with their consciousness. I have found people who will let me in. I live in a house with them; they travel the world with me. My soul has felt the warmth of them. I have access to it now, like a palliative spring I can drink from.
I used to think that because of my differences, I was the only one who felt this way. Like I said, loneliness by its very nature convinces you that you are the only one that feels it. But then I started traveling the world. And it shocked me. It did not matter what continent I landed on, what culture people came from, what age they were, whether they were female or male. Everyone I met described the same feeling of loneliness to varying degrees. It became obvious to me that loneliness is in fact an epidemic problem in the world today. And then I saw something deeper… Loneliness isn’t just an epidemic problem on the level of each individual. It is an epidemic on a societal and a world level as well.
To be lonely is to perceive oneself to be separated or disconnected from ‘others’. The concept that there is something dangerous and painful about being disconnected might seem theoretical and abstract until you realize that this is the reason that for years, many countries were completely segregated. People with dark skin were taken from their families and kept as slaves, burnt, beaten, and hung. This is why in the 1940s, Auschwitz and other death camps were created to contain and exterminate Jews and other demographics that opposed the Nazi Regime.
Disconnection is what caused the US to drop a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. It’s why as of 1979, PolPot’s regime had eliminated 21% of Cambodia’s entire population. And today, disconnection is the reason that a man can train for years for the single task of strapping a bomb to his own body and exploding it, himself along with it, in an attack aimed to create terror and destruction to whomever he has decided is his enemy.
Every crime that was ever committed came about because the person committing it perceived himself or herself to be separate from and disconnected from the person they committed that crime against. And so the perception of separateness (Loneliness) is not only the greatest pain we experience in this life, it’s also the single most dangerous thing on the planet.
It is for this reason that I decided to dive into the study of loneliness. I wanted to figure out what creates it, what maintains it, how to tear down whatever keeps it intact and to figure out exactly what to replace it with and how. I followed an inexplicable calling deep into the jungle of Costa Rica and down the path of shamanism in order to understand loneliness clearly. I spent three years ‘down the rabbit hole’ of loneliness so to speak. I emerged with a giant collection of insights I had written on lined paper during those years. Papers I had stuffed into a backpack. Papers that smelled of Paolo Santo. Papers that were crinkled and smeared with ritual ashes and tears and frantically written truths. When I emerged from this rabbit hole, I had emerged with the understanding and the answers I was looking for. It is what was written on those papers that transmuted into this book that would be called The Anatomy of Loneliness. It is not only a road map for individuals to follow out of loneliness; it is also a message to the world. It is a message and a road map that I am hoping will reach every last corner of this blue marble we are living on so that no one has to spend time in the hell of invisible isolation, like I once did… So that no one has to feel alone.