By João Campos-Silva
I was thinking a lot about the effect of loneliness on the human condition. I had just completed 160 days living on the boat and, even with the three co-workers on the journey, sometimes a feeling of emptiness ran through my veins. I thought I was facing such loneliness. In the slowness of time, on a sunny morning I met a friend I hadn’t seen in two years. He is an isolated resident in a corner of Brazil where everything and nothing can mean exactly the same thing.
Seu Gracias, on seeing me, soon joked in his caboclo, affectionate and polite manner: “JB how long! How nice to see you! I haven’t seen anyone for 15 months! Not even a living soul to have a chat with!”
I, in my childish ingenuity, immediately thought: Holy Mary, how sad it must be to live immersed in solitude! Among all feelings, loneliness must be the most overwhelming. It kills slowly, like a fatal gas that anchors in every empty space in our alveoli, leading us to fatigue and agony. And I kept that in mind, watching the joy emanating from Seu Gracias while talking to other companions.
But thinking more about this, wandering on uninhabited floors and learning with the smile of Seu Gracias, I realize now that, in reality, loneliness has nothing to do with social seclusion and a lack of people with whom to establish bonds of love or friendship.
Loneliness, in fact, occurs when we lose ourselves. When our “self” loosens, the world collapses. Everything loses its meaning and the emptiness that lodges in the chest has the weight of the world. Any life must encompass a meaning, however simple it may be. If we lose that sense, our “self” also vanishes.
That is why we see hermits wandering in temples, forests and deserts with hearts overflowing with joy and, at the same time, we see large legions of people in megacities with thousands of friends on social networks, but suffering in the most brutal loneliness. They are completely alone among thousands.
That’s why Seu Gracias is so happy. Even though he lived in seclusion, he was never really alone, because the meaning of his life and his own company were always enough. To give meaning to life is to shield yourself from loneliness! What a fool I was to think that loneliness was the absence of something external. I really want to live finding myself so that I never lose myself!