‘The Opposite Of Loneliness” By Michael Knowles
The morning we graduated college, Marina Keegan declared her yearning for “the opposite of loneliness” in the commencement issue of the Yale Daily News. “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness,” she observed. “But if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.” In the wake of her sudden death in a car accident days later, the piece spread to millions across the country and has prompted Simon and Schuster to publish a collection of her essays and stories earlier this month titled, fittingly, The Opposite of Loneliness.
Marina gives us some guidance by describing not what the opposite of loneliness is, but rather what it is not. “It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community,” she explains. “It’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s 4 a.m. and no one goes to bed.” The opposite of loneliness, she says, is not so fickle as a feeling, nor is it so static as a grouping, an arbitrary assembling of individuals. The opposite of loneliness is active, teleological even: committed to goals, longing in action.
For Pericles, the source of happiness is freedom. By Marina’s measure, conversely, the font of misery is loneliness, and with typically uncommon honesty she admits, “This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse—I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.” The scope of Marina’s worries in this line is quite limited, defensive rather than offensive, and unconcerned about future gain. Her fear is focused on the preservation of those institutions, traditions and goals in which she feels herself embedded. And what is loneliness, then? At its core, is it not simply a perversion of freedom? Is loneliness any more than an emancipation so extreme and complete as to transcend all pretense of society—individualism unhinged? If so, this definition goes a long way in explaining the bewilderment of modern sociologists as to the source of the growing loneliness among Marina’s classmates and comrades, steeped in a culture that axiomatically exalts the individual and the atomic –
Those familiar with Marina’s political inclinations and activities will find it fitting that the great liberal Athenian leader answers her question in a word. The opposite of loneliness is citizenship, freedom nobly perfected, advanced by courage and sustained by love. It is community progressing, engaged not by the weak pursuit of feckless comfort, in all its poisonous subjectivism, but by a virtuous longing for truth and honor. In the words of Pericles, it is free citizens “who, fearless of consequences, confer their benefits not from calculations of expediency, but in the confidence of liberality.”
Marina draws a distinction, as does Pericles, between loneliness and being alone. She describes arriving to look for her friends, mistakenly, at an iconic, empty administrative building. She recalls, “I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.” In Yale’s empty, neo-gothic castles, she feels the presence of her forbears, whose company she shares by the mere fact of her citizenship within a storied tradition – For full article click below.
Posted By F. Sheikh