I really enjoyed Marina Keegan’s article “The Opposite of Loneliness.” The word I’d use as the opposite of loneliness is “community.” Community has been shown to be an important part of a happy, fulfilling life. Of course, there’s no economic model attached to community, so not only do we not manage it, we disregard it in our calculations and decisions.
It’s something I’ve thought a lot about the last 5-10 years, as it’s become apparent to me that the grown-up world we’ve created doesn’t provide much opportunity for it. Any sense of “we’re in this together” that may have existed in America seems to be long gone. The prevailing question seems to have become “How can I get mine and avoid giving any of it to anyone else?” Of course, if you feel like you’re in a community, getting yours becomes much less important, since you feel like someone’s there to help if you really need it.
The very things that we call “progress” are, I believe, a big part of the problem. Easy transportation and telecomm have made it easier ad easier for us to isolate ourselves in suburbs, with our work lives being played out far away, with people who don’t share our interests, who don’t like us, and who don’t live near us. Seeing someone once a month at a planned dinner out for two hours becomes the new definition of “friendship” (second only to the definition of friendship that involves reading someone’s status updates on social media).
If you have hobbies or interests that naturally lend themselves to seeing others (e.g. team sports), that can be a source of connection. But even there, it’s not clear to me that it’s the kind of connection Keegan is talking about in her article. I recall the feeling she’s discussing, and indeed, college is the last time I felt it.
For all you post-college folk out there, please share! How do YOU find community in your life?