Wednesday 13 November 2013

What endemic loneliness tell us about secular modernity


Loneliness is the huge undiscussed problem of modernity.

But perhaps the most striking thing about loneliness is that almost nobody does anything to cure it.


Instead of curing loneliness, people distract themselves from it; mostly by losing-themselves in the mass media, and also by drink and drugs, sex, travel and other stimuli.

And these distractions are a cause of, or contribution to, much of the evil of modern life.

Perhaps the clue is that loneliness drives people to seek these distractions - so the forces of evil want people to be lonely, and to remain lonely, because:

1. Loneliness itself makes people miserable.

2. The attempt to achieve distraction from loneliness is a continual pressure towards sin - because most distractions are either sinful or involve an opening-up towards sin (for example propaganda, situations of temptation etc).


Perhaps the most usual cure advocated for loneliness is 'friends' - friends are supposed to be 'good' in and of themselves; modern people desperately want friends - and as many as possible to provide 24/7 cover.

Yet such desperation for friendship leads to a lowering of standards, to false friends; and false friends are a powerful - for many people an irresistible - inducement to evil.


The fact of loneliness, its miseries and inducements to evil, and the fact that social institutions which provide a cure for loneliness (e.g. marriage, the family, college, monastery) have been continually attacked and often destroyed by modernity...

And the fact that nothing whatsoever has been done to improve the situation - despite unprecedented resources...

All this tells me that loneliness is no accident - it is not an accidental side-effect of modernity, is not an unfortunate cost for greater benefits: but is strategic; and that the forces of evil do what they can to make and sustain loneliness as a weapon against the Good.

If, at its best family life is a foretaste of Heaven; then loneliness is a foretaste of hell. 



Arakawa said...

"If, at its best family life is a foretaste of Heaven; then loneliness is a foretaste of hell."

Excellent observations, though they also have to be squared with the ascetic view of the desert (especially self-imposed isolation) as the place of most intense spiritual warfare. Though they do square very well. Clearly, someone who does not spend much time with other people is somehow more open to communicating with spiritual entities. Which -- absent some kind of incredible gift of discernment -- necessarily includes more demons than you can shake a stick at.

Thus the monk who is not content with the ordinary experience of resisting demons while among brethren, will go off in solitary isolation, where he is practically guaranteed to have to battle against demons an order of magnitude more vicious and persistent, with no humans around to provide a reality check.

The modern lonely lifestyle has the worst of both worlds, then; all the openness to negative influences, plus a bevy of alluring distractions that destroy the possibility of actually fighting them on a day-to-day basis. Sort of the anti-desert. So I'm not surprised that Screwtape would regard the modern-day loneliness as an advantageous phenomenon to cultivate.

Adam G. said...

Friends cure loneliness only when they are admirable people, the kind of people who will stick by you and whose affection and regard is meaningful.

But modernity doesn't encourage the development of virtue. So friends are replaced with buddies.