We will leave this world as alone, and as lonely, as we have entered it.
We are all lone travellers on this journey of life. We do not know exactly why we are here, or how we came to be, or where we are headed towards; in fact, despite the advances in technology and science, we remain clueless as to what our conditions had or would be pre-conception and post-death respectively. I do not deny that these thoughts had often haunted me as a young girl – I used to imagine my soul, or whatever it was that comprised the essence of that which made me myself, floating about languidly in the immense cosmos, unaware of this impending life that I was about to embark on, and a flurry of questions would then bombard my humanly-constrained mind: If my soul and consciousness were one and the same, where had the memories of my past gone? Does reincarnation exist? And if my memories were erased, am I still one and the same? What would then happen when my being ceased to be? Would my memories of this life similarly be erased for me to start anew? Who or what would I be then, and how would I, living this life, matter in the grand scheme of things?
As we trudge on with our lives attempting to grapple with the enormity of these seemingly unanswerable questions, we might meet other travellers with whom we share segments of our journeys. Some of these may be fleeting, while others, with a little more relative permanence. These shared experiences of euphoria and melancholia may momentarily allow us to believe that we are part of a larger entity, that we belong someplace, and most of all, that we are not alone.
Alas, these travellers come and go in our lives, as we, theirs. At the end of the day, we are all profoundly alone. We are lonely insofar as we recognise the impossibility of ever finding someone who would be able to wholly understand ourselves. In this vein, loneliness is not something we can expect to outgrow by a certain stage in our lives. It is innate in us, for loneliness is a human condition. In the words of Janet Fitch in White Oleander:
Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness. Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception.
If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you’ll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in your way.
It is an inescapable fact that at this present moment, we only have this one life to live, in however manner we deem palatable, with only ourselves to be answerable to. Why should we, then, not dispel the negativity of naysayers and discard the weight of societal pressures if we are indeed independently pursuing a life that is true to the existential core of our very selves?
– Agnes Chew