It is with great regret that I’ve come to the realization that being with most people makes me lonely. Loneliness, as I see it, involves the lack of feeling of belonging and understanding. The vast majority of people I encounter, save for a few friends and my wife, leave me feeling a void of understanding and connectedness. I do not understand them. They do not understand me. The act of being in their presence makes me feel more lonely than simply being alone.
It seems I am not alone (pun intended) in this feeling:
My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced freedom from the need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I gang my own gait and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties I have never lost an obstinate sense of detachment, of the need for solitude—a feeling which increases with the years. One is sharply conscious, yet without regret, of the limits to the possibility of mutual understanding and sympathy with one’s fellow-creatures.
–Albert Einstein, “The World As I See It”
Our friend Thoreau also mentions this loneliness in “Walden”:
I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows.
–Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”
May you never be alone among friends.