Complete solitude – Part 1

Paulo Coelho

The journalists have finished all the interviews, the publishers have all taken the train back to Zurich, the friends I had dinner with have all gone home, and I go out for a walk in Geneva. It is an exceptionally pleasant evening, the streets are deserted and the bars and restaurants filled with life, everything seems absolutely calm, in order, pretty, and then all of a sudden…

All of a sudden it strikes me that I am absolutely alone.

Of course I have often been alone this year. And “of course”, somewhere two hours from here by plane, my wife waits for me. It is obvious too that after a day filled with activities like today, nothing better than to stroll through the lanes and narrow alleys of the old town without having to say anything to anyone, just contemplating the beauty all around me. Except that tonight, for some reason that I am unaware of, this feeling of solitude is utterly oppressive and anguishing – I have nobody to share the city with on this stroll, nobody to share the comments that I would like to make.

Of course, I have a mobile telephone in my pocket and a reasonable number of friends here, but I feel it is a bit too late to call anyone. I consider the possibility of going into one of the bars and ordering myself a drink – almost certainly, someone would recognize me and invite me to join them. But I also think that it is important to go deep to the bottom of this emptiness, this sensation that it does not matter to anybody whether we exist or not, and so I carry on walking.

I see a fountain and remember I was here last year with a Russian painter lady who had just illustrated a text that I had written for Amnesty International. On that day we hardly exchanged a word, just listened to the water splashing and the music of a violin coming from far away. We were both wrapped in our thoughts, yet both of us knew that although distant, we were not alone.

I walk on for a bit, heading for the Cathedral. Through a half-open window on the other side of the street, I see a family chatting together; this only makes the sensation of loneliness grow immensely, now the evening stroll has turned into a journey into night trying to understand what it is to feel utterly alone.

[...]

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Comments

  1. Kaycee says:

    I have been alone for a long while, only recently have i noticed the real difference of being alone and to be lonely. I have learnt alot about myself and life in this time. I stil get lonely sometimes, but i find comfort knowing that it will pass.

  2. "alone again" says:

    in one sense, it’s comforting to know that I am not alone in feeling like that at times..

  3. Agni says:

    I'm not an expert in words, but I once read about “solitude and loneliness” in an booklet by J. Oswald Sanders.
    They are not exactly the same, there are differences, and I have experienced both.

    Solitude means “not being in the company of others”.
    “It's often positive & renewing. It's creative & motivating. It's voluntary & deliberately choosen.”
    I feel the need to escape from others, just be with myself. I feel peaceful, comfort & content, and for me it's the time when I have an intimate relationship with God.

    “Loneliness is the result of the absence of personal intimacy, or meaningfull activity. It's always a negative experience, the feeling of desolation, emptiness, depression. Destructive. It's involuntary & unwanted.”

    Loneliness is the worst feeling I have experienced.
    It feels like its invisible cruel fingers squeezing my heart, and try to ripped it out of my chest, taking the life out of me, killing me.
    It's even worse when I feel lonely in the crowd, and I don't even understand why I feel that way.

  4. Cherie says:

    Loneliness gives us a greater appreciation of togetherness.
    Human companionship has feasts and famines. The seasons of life.

  5. Dear Savita:

    Thank you for asking me to read article that I have written.

    :)

    Good day !

  6. cristina says:

    This is linked to my question about the silence I made to you Mr Coelho in the other part of this blog.
    This is the proof that what we call the big soul of World exists.
    That thoughts and feelings are the same and go around the world like neverending trains of energies.
    You wrote about your feelings of solitudes, I was asking you to to talkabout silence (a fundamental part of solitudes) this means we (and other people who wrote in this blog) have shared the same energies together.
    It was nice.
    Now what can we do with this?
    Always find a practical application.
    Maybe we could try to show to our neighbours, in our own way, that this happen; this is real.
    Of course the risk is …”you are dreaming”, “you are just a philososopher” this is I think our challenge, show this to our neighours that empathy exists.
    Have a nice day

  7. THELMA says:

    I have never been alone in my life! [You know, dear-est Paul from Austria] Everyone in Cyprus is a … distant relative! As a student I had many friends and then since I was 18 I got engaged, married, a mother at 21 and life took its course.. As a child I enjoyed mostly playing with my .. dolls alone! They were my ..talking friends. Then studying the piano for hours was not difficult for me, because this was my world. THEN my prof. who had seen me making a big progress asked me : Are you happy, do you enjoy studying for so many hours? I think this was ‘my trap’! I was 17. It was the time that our hearts beat ..quicker and we do not want any more to be ..alone! It was the time for a … soul mate! So I answered to him: I am happy but this means that I will be alone the rest of my life.
    His answer was: But we ARE always alone!
    I did not believe him. I was optimistic. I was a naive child.
    Now I know.
    LOVE,
    Thelma

  8. Alexandra says:

    If I remember well,this is a passage from “The Zahir”.?

  9. Alexandra says:

    You feel alone?Why you not call me?

  10. Savita Vega says:

    Dear Santosh:

    Read the link you included in your post. Thanks for sharing it. Very nice.

    Savita

  11. LA says:

    “Feeling important makes one heavy, clumsy and vain. To be a warrior one needs to be light and fluid. The spirit of a warrior is not geared to indulging and complaining, nor is it geared to winning or losing. The spirit of a warrior is geared only to struggle, and every struggle is a warrior’s last battle on earth. Thus the outcome matters very little to him. In his last battle on earth a warrior lets his spirit flow free and clear. And as he wages his battle, knowing that his intent is impeccable, a warrior laughs and laughs.” These are quotes from Carlos Castenadas whose thoughts have grounded me for years. Is this the same as “the good fight” you talk about in The Pilgrimage?

  12. Grace says:

    You know you are alone when you start asking your dog questions about life and he runs and hides under the coffee table.

  13. Nanci says:

    I’m looking forward to reading the second part of your “journey into night trying to understand what it is to feel utterly alone” and to learn what you discovered along this path.

    There is really only one time in my life where I can say that I felt absolutely alone and I’ll share part of it with you here because it is something that I continue to mull over in my mind from time to time. One night, I had a horrible nightmare in which I was absolutely alone in a dark place. I remember being pulled up out of the nightmare, feeling the different levels of consciousness flying by me as I ascended into the waking world and I awoke screaming. After I’d told my husband the contents of this nightmare, I asked him, “Is that what it’s like to be dead?” He said he’s never forgotten it. Nor have I.

    I wonder if there are different degrees or variations on what we experience in our emotions. For me, feeling lonely has more to do with an aloneness that can be assuaged with people and/or the thoughts about people and what they bring into your life. But to feel a profound sense of aloneness like what I experienced in my nightmare, is, to me, equated with a disconnect that has a definite ring of finality. My thoughts today lead me to say that I would rather have the feeling of loneliness than to feel that I was alone.
    To me, the feeling of being utterly alone is a feeling of death.

  14. Alejandro says:

    Being alone is sometimes important and useful for any person, because it makes you fill up with fresh energy, but it’s also not so good if you allow it weigh on you too much (loneliness turns itself into depression so easily). The trick is simple: it consists on being alone for a while and then “unplug” oneself for another while.

    Take care,

    Alex

  15. Cuando se sientan así, suban a la montaña y despierten a su Angel.
    La Quinta Montaña de Paulo Coelho.

  16. Mareva says:

    http://guerrayser.spaces.live.com/

    Haber si arreglamos el entuerto y dios vuelve a la tierra para quedarse o para morir de una vez por todas…

  17. Soledad says:

    Loneliness in a crowd is a hard thing. Sometimes you are alone in your feelings. Other people don’t understand the path you’ve chosen. It’s inevitable when you follow your heart. There’s is a feeling with me that I rely on others when I am lonely, but I don’t allow myself the luxury. I make myself sit it out, I don’t call anyone. I just get the feeling that when I meet up with people to take away my loneliness I am searching for something in the wrong place. Like someone else is going to give me answers, when they can’t. The answers lie within myself. But often they are disguised.

    It’s a difficult predicament. You know that your mood would lift if only you called someone. Am I being harsh on myself? Should I listen to my NEEDS. Even if the need is found within someone else. Is there something wrong with needing something from another person? I have been hurt so many times going down this path that I now try to only rely on myself. But sometimes you just need company. We are not islands.

    Someone said to me this week: “It’s like we’re always doing a dance, backwards and forwards, into the needs of others and back into our own needs”. I thought this was nice. Sometimes you need another person to be there for you. On other days you will be in a position to be there for them. Some days it is nice to sit alone and listen. Get to know yourself and develop a beautiful relationship with the person inside.

    Soledad. Necesito estar sola.

  18. Sanya says:

    Loneliness, aloneness, solitude – all of these are you forgetting about our non-physical soul, your soul is never alone, your vision is slightly blurred. Never rely only on your 5 senses. This is limiting, and the world is infinite. When you feel this be grateful, because it means in that moment you need to reconnect to your soul which is connected to the source which flows through all.

  19. Monika says:

    I just checked whether you have read my message and then went on reading here – I am used to read your blog every day and I always found some encouraging words which I need specially these days. Then I read these words above and first did not know what to think.

    Don’t be angry with me, but after a while I had to smile and thought: Let’s share some painkillers! Shit day today!

    I mostly succeed in killing pain with jokes and humour (I give in sometimes I can be sarcastically). The true reasons I am often kidding are the pain and fear I often have to bear. But what does it matter – it works. Try it yourself!

  20. Savita Vega says:

    There is this little exercise being posted around on Facebook, called “20 Random Facts About Myself”. I wrote mine out and posted it a few days ago. Here is my entry #23:

    “As much as I love to entertain and act as a hostess, I absolutely MUST have a good dose of alone-time, pretty much every day. And if I do not get it – if I cannot find the time to be alone or if I cannot locate and secure a private space, I quickly become impossible to be around: at best, grumpy; at worst, flying into senseless fits of rage. I adore being around people, but equally I love just being by myself. I understand the concept of “loneliness,” as I hear people express this sentiment all the time, but I can honestly say that it is not a feeling that I have ever personally experienced. At some point, I simply have to recharge my batteries, and I can only do that in solitude and silence. If I were ever imprisoned and forced to occupy a cell with several other people, I’d probably have to do something every once in a while so as to have myself carted off to solitary confinement.”

    There is also this poem that comes to mind in reading your post, Paulo:

    I dream of journeys repeatedly:
    Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel,
    Of driving alone, without luggage, out on a long penninsula,
    The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
    A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
    Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
    And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
    The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
    Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
    Where the car stalls,
    Churning in a snowdrift
    Until the headlights darken.

    – from “The Far Field” by Theodore Roethke

    Yes, there is the silence that uplifts…and then there is a silence that is deafening.

    Savita

  21. T.K. says:

    I appreciate solitude. However, when I try to find value in solitude, loneliness creeps in uninvited whispering to me that my solitude means nothing if I don’t share and connect with someone else. So I’m torn between being independent and dependent…

  22. Anlao says:

    “I have nobody to share the city with on this stroll, nobody to share the comments that I would like to make.”

    Four years ago, after spending six weeks in Italy, I experienced the very same feeling. My last day in Rome, I arrived at 7:00 am from Terni with the first train of the day, and at 8:30, in the middle of Musei Vaticani, I felt overwhelmed by the complete loneliness, of not having anyone to share the beauty of Rome.

    I wanted to cry. But I could not afford the luxury of breaking down, I was alone. Who would take care of me?

    Somehow something broke inside of me, and I forgot I have a budget, and a plan for that day. I paid teh extra 14 Euro for a CD with explanations about the paintings, and at the end of my visit I could exchange comments with other visitors.

    I flew with the baloon over Rome. Unplanned.
    I talked to a man selling tourists t-shirts, and found out many silly things tourists do. I got a shirt extra for free, the one I liked. Unplanned.
    I took left and ended up in Ville Bourghese to see Calzio Roma practice for soccer, and laughed at the douzen screaming girls infatuated with soccer players. The laugh didn’t hurt. Unplanned.
    I wondered on the streets until I ended up at a refreshments booth tired, alone, and thirsty. Asked for a bottle of water, which was handed to me. And when I reached for it, the man grabbed by hand and leaned and kissed me. Unplanned.
    I saw a concert on the streets of Rome that night, talked to the owner of a small pizza place, and smiled more than I can remember.

    I was alone all day long, but lonely only in the morning.
    Maybe it took the pain of those moments to make me reach out, and reach happiness even in aloneness.

    I am grateful for that loneliness. It was the most beautiful day in six weeks of Italy… somehow I ended up living everything I feared I wasn’t. Unplanned!

  23. Agni says:

    I’m not an expert in words, but I once read about “solitude and loneliness” in an booklet by J. Oswald Sanders.
    They are not exactly the same, there are differences, and I have experienced both.

    Solitude means “not being in the company of others”.
    “It’s often positive & renewing. It’s creative & motivating. It’s voluntary & deliberately choosen.”
    I feel the need to escape from others, just be with myself. I feel peaceful, comfort & content, and for me it’s the time when I have an intimate relationship with God.

    “Loneliness is the result of the absence of personal intimacy, or meaningfull activity. It’s always a negative experience, the feeling of desolation, emptiness, depression. Destructive. It’s involuntary & unwanted.”

    Loneliness is the worst feeling I have experienced.
    It feels like its invisible cruel fingers squeezing my heart, and try to ripped it out of my chest, taking the life out of me, killing me.
    It’s even worse when I feel lonely in the crowd, and I don’t even understand why I feel that way.

  24. Marie-Christine says:

    Santosh, thanks for that quote and the mybheja, blogspot , you are right, there is a difference between loneliness and aloneness, aloneless comes from the heart the other from relying on other to fulfill you.

  25. “Aloneness is the first lesson of Love”

    Further reading-
    http://mybheja.blogspot.com/2007/08/being-alone.aspx

    Good luck ! :)