It’s just awfully lonely being a human being. It’s just awfully hard being a human being. For so many reasons. We are really, in a sense, totally alone within ourselves. We can’t see ourselves from outside ourselves. In a sense, we’re trapped within our own confining, limited subjective experiences. We don’t ever see ourselves as others see us—gazing at ourselves in a “mirror” is the closest we come to seeing ourselves from an outer vantage point.
We have complex brains and minds designed to create crushing experiences of self-doubt, insecurity, self-consciousness. We can feel sick and frail. We’re aware of death, aware we’re going to die, but not what will kill us and when. The specter of death lurks ever-presently and, for some of us, menacingly, even when we succeed in nudging it to the fringes of our conscious awareness.
We need people, yet it can feel forbidding to get close to them, to reveal ourselves. It can feel scary enough to know ourselves, let alone allow others to know us. Loss surrounds us. We can lose people—to conflict, estrangement, and, of course, death. We know that loss (of anything, everything) is possible and unpredictable. We can question everything about ourselves and be certain of almost nothing.
In a nutshell, being a human being can feel so empty. Sometimes that may be all that we feel— emptiness. A sense, sometimes, of dizzying aloneness. We can feel voids, within ourselves. Voids that, intuitively, we’re aware no one can solve, or fill. We may sense, with futility, that we ourselves cannot solve our emptiness, our inner voids. This can engender despair, like awakening to find ourselves in a vast, strange desert with no compass, and thus no sense whatsoever which way to go, which direction might lead us out of the vast, surrounding nothingness.
We can experience ourselves as if alone in our interior, personal desert; what can feel like an interior, desolate desert that stretches as if into infinity in every direction. This can leave us feeling a helpless, existential despair—profoundly alienated from ourselves, and others.
We can ask, how can we solve this? What will enable our escape from this existential nightmare? How can we solve this emptiness that’s in us, that may be us? How can we fill the voids—voids that can feel canyon-like—that seem to encompass us, that may be us? And the answer may be, we can’t. The answer may be, there are no answers. The answer may be, there is no escaping our inner emptiness and voids.
But then a question ensues—even if this is true, or somewhat true, must this necessarily be a source of gut-wrenching despair? And the answer can be, no. Not necessarily. For we can face our emptiness. We can face our inner voids. We can stop panicking over them, and desperately seeking solutions to them. We can learn to coexist with our inner emptiness and voids. We can learn to tolerate and respect them. Just as we can find a lonely beauty in the stark, spectacular desolation of a vast, red-rock canyon, so we can find a stark beauty even in the desolation of our existential loneliness, and aloneness.
We can take some deep breaths, and tell ourselves, “I can handle this. Wow. This is big. This is really big. My emptiness…the voids in me…they sometimes feel big. Canyon-big. I can feel scared, and all alone in them. And they can feel inescapable. But this interior landscape is also my landscape. I can realize—I don’t have to run from it, terrorized. I don’t even have to find a way out. I don’t.”
And so, it’s okay to feel lost. Feeling lost is something we can learn to stop freaking-out about. Feeling lost no longer has to panic us. We can learn that it’s okay to feel lost. And yet, we tend to feel most lost when we’re desperate to find ways out…of where are. Which means we can feel less lost when we stop demanding ways, and paths, out of our emptiness and voids.
In the end, it may be neither possible, nor necessary, to find paths out of our emptiness. Out of our voids. And so, we can learn to live with them, and in them, better…more adaptively. And with more respect for the grandeur of our interior desolation, when we feel it.