Loneliness and Revelation

I took Loneliness and Revelation – a modestly sized philosophical text by Brendan Myers – with me to a recent weekend Steampunk event. It turned out to be very apt reading. The main theme of the book is loneliness, which Brendan considers to be intrinsic to the human condition. Inside our own heads, each of us is separate and alone. There are some religious traditions that try and overcome this by making us one with everything, but as this book so usefully points out, if everything is one, you have a singular thing that still has every reason and opportunity to experience loneliness. That in many myths, the original creator god creates to deal with being alone, is well worth considering.

This is not, as a consequence, a book about how to never suffer loneliness again. It explores the things we can do to tackle our insularity – both the things that work, and the things that are popular, but don’t. There’s consideration of the ethical side of how we assert ourselves in the world, questions about how to live well and be happy alongside this issue of intrinsic loneliness. There’s a lot of reflection on the relationship between creativity and loneliness as well. Given the size of the book, it is broad and deep in ways that I really liked.

A big public gathering of some 4000 people, was in many ways the perfect setting for reading this. Steampunk is a very creative community, in which hours of work and great care and attention is lavished upon kits and creativity. People do this very specifically to be seen, to be noticed by others. The kit in turn gives permission to start conversations; it’s not just acceptable, but desirable to approach other Steampunks and compliment them on attire, artefacts and the like. Having spent some days in a space that encourages social contact between strangers really brought home to me how generally impossible it would be to walk up to a stranger in the street and start a conversation with them. In most spaces, loneliness is supported, not connection.

Expressing who we are in the world, by word and deed, is a big part of what Loneliness and Revelation explores. The power of manifesting something of who we are and having that seen, known and understood is something Brendan offers as key to overcoming loneliness. And yet modern human interactions push us in the exact opposite direction. Work uniforms, scripts for dealing with ‘clients’, with brands offered to us as self expression, and photo-shopped celebrity mistaken for being seen and recognised. It made me wonder how much online trolling comes from the basic need to be seen and heard, and a loss of any sense that this might have an ethical dimension to it.

That’s a very superficial bit of reflection on a very deep book. It’s changed me and influenced my thinking in ways I have not yet fully digested. There is much here about how to live and how to choose life, and I think it’s a book many people would benefit from reading. If you are the sort of person who likes to reflect and if you lead with the head, and favour a reasoned approach, this is a book that will help you think about how you are in the world, and how you want to be. It’s not always an easy or comfortable read, but if you are the sort of person who doesn’t need it all to be optimistic and upbeat, (and if you’re reading my blog, I rate the chances) you might well want to read this.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

10 responses to “Loneliness and Revelation

  • Christopher Blackwell

    There is also the option to learn to enjoy being alone and the freedom that it provides because you ever have to bother to fit in. I have often gone for years without being social and I have always limited the amount of time for being social to o ore than a hour at a time.

    I enjoy meeting people, mainly for the conversations I can start usually on odd subjects. I have a few people that I know, some for years, but only one that I actually see weekly for a few minutes at a time, or when I am being drive into town for shopping and I discuss whatever he is interested in at the time. I had a long term relationship fr 37.5 years until my partner passed, but I a not likely to start another one as I am not in the least lonely.

    I would say my closest friend is my cat and that is fine with me. He curls up on the tale behind my chair when I am at the computer, in my bed when I nap, and sleeps most the at night with me in bed. He comes to me when he needs something, normally I know what he wants, as he communicates it well to me, but still he has periods when he prefers to hide out along, or run around outside.

    • Nimue Brown

      Very important point that. the book largely addresses issues of how we reach out and express to others, there’s a lot more to be said about how we can be more at peace in our own separation.

  • inanna

    shame about the white, thin but inexplicably large-breasted woman on the cover – ticks pretty much every box in the “how to present women” list. my loneliness and alienation, from myself and fellow females, only deepens in the face of the relentless onslaught of such imagery.

    • Christopher Blackwell

      Inanna, why not just ignore such images?

      Look at all the images of muscle bound men. I happen to be the thin side and never had any muscle, even less as I have become an old man. But I also see the muscle bound for what it is a fake shelf preening man who spends many hours in the gym to keep all that extra weight from turning into fat. Also at my age, being thin looks a lot healthier than many other 70 year old men loaded down with fat.

      So take how you are and find the benefits of being who you are, and not be so affected by other people’s unrealistic fantasies. You have to first love yourself before you can love other imperfect people who are not fantasies. You are exactly as you were designed to be, otherwise you would have been something else. You are part of the weave of life and the pattern of reality would been different if you were not exactly as you are. You just have to be more fully yourself and enjoy being you. No one can be happy by being a fake person, that imaginary person that each of us were told that we are supposed to be.

      • inanna

        i do ignore them, for the most part. but the exhortation to “just ignore” is part of the mechanism by which power is maintained and used to exploit. as it happens, i have a healthy relationship with my body (18 years of daily yoga, among other factors including three homebirths), and i can see such images for what they are – empty, vacuous signifiers of something we’re supposed to want. i have never been sexually or physically abused; neither have i lived with anorexia or body dysmorphia, so i am able to take your politically-ignorant comment for what i have no doubt it is – well-meaning, optimistic and kindly.

        body hatred is an epidemic, and girls have to filter so many thousands of images and messages about how their bodies should be before they even get to puberty that it is hardly a surprise that we have so thoroughly internalised this ideal that “just ignore them” is completely pointless. if we could, we would. without wishing to belittle the many, many thousands of people who experience far more dangerous oppression, would you consider it appropriate to advise a victim of racism, or of bullying, to “ignore it”?

        apologies for the political rant, but i was sad to see such a trite image on a book that was so heartily recommended. for me there is a clear and obvious link between hatred and mistrust of the body, particularly the female body, and our alienation from Nature. they’re two sides of the same coin, and unpicking the ways we fool and shortchange ourselves about one can lead to deeper understanding about how and why we’re out of contact with the other.

    • Nimue Brown

      It’s not an ideal cover – but if you get it as an ebook of course it’s much less of an issue. It has a lot of very good things to say that as a person who struggles a fair bit with gender stereotyping and identification, I found decidedly useful.

      • inanna

        i didn’t mean to undermine your review of the book, nimue. sorry if my post came across that way – and i hope i don’t deter anyone from reading for themselves, as it does sound interesting. i know that the author probably has little to no say in how the book is presented, including the cover. i just find it incredibly disheartening when useful, provocative work is marketed with tired old clichés. in the yoga world, the truly radical, subversive nature of the actual practice seems increasingly lost in the onslaught of imagery just like this, to the point where it’s hard to be sure whether the practice is challenging or just playing into the cultural norms many of us want to be free from.

      • Nimue Brown

        It’s a very good point and needs thinking about, so I’m glad you raised it. Part of the problem with a cover like this is the kind of imagery available in the first place – assumptions about what people want mean only a narrow spectrum of images are offered, meaning there’s no ‘market’ for anything else, thus feeding the belief that this is all anyone wants to see, and round we go again….

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Inanna, Sorry that you feel that way. We have no control over what happens to us. However we do have some control over how we choose to react to it, and how long we will allow a bad experience to hurt us. Each of us is the only one that can actually heal ourselves. Others might help at times but they cannot heal us.

    Life is unfair and always has been. because it never seems to go the way we would want it to. Life always will be unfair, and it is useless to hope otherwise, or to wait around for it to change. So that is the challenge, how to become a moderately happy in spite of the unfairness.

    Life as a girl, or as a women, is very difficult. There is no question of that. Much of the difficulty is unlearning the false training we give to women, that they are supposed to please men, serve men, and and not expect more back than the man occasionally being nice to them. The other illusion is the romantic illusion of a woman needing a man, and not being complete without a man, to define herself according to the man in her life

    That is bullshit from start to ending. Remember the old idea of feminism was to let the woman decide what being a woman was to be by her needs and desires. Somehow that got distorted into every woman having to be super woman, prefect in everything that she does, the perfect lover, the perfect employee the perfect house keeper, the perfect mother of her children and so forth. Meanwhile all the man had to be was not be drunkard, nor a gambler nor a womanizer, and not be violent, and he was a good man. Talk about a stacked deck against the woman.

    Any woman is going to spend a good part of her life without a man around, so she has to be able to survive on her own, take care of her own needs and not jump into a relationship, just to be in one. Men do lie and connive to get what they want from a woman, so you need a good bull shit detector and be cautious with any man. No relationship at all is still better than being trapped in a bad relationship. Just my thoughts and I half way expect to be jumped on for even giving them.

    As a Gay man I had a lot of self hate, personal embarrassment
    over not only being a disappointment as a boy, but not understanding nor having any the desires to be what the other boys were, or what I was taught a man should be. I could not have recognized another gay boy if I saw one, and knew nothing of how to be gay, or how to socialize in a gay society. I had no interest in girls, I was not comfortable with boys. I was tall skinny, extremely gentle. I had no aggressiveness and never could so much as throw a punch, nor was I competitive at all. I did not fit the manhood image at all, nor was I interested in being anything else either. I just did not fits in anywhere, so I stayed pretty much to myself where I was most comfortable, by myself. Also I could not have socialized for not having any money to spend and of course no car. That was limiting as a teenage boy. Oh, and add the fact of being bipolar which would not get treated, or even diagnosed, for another thirty years

    So everything that I would become, had to be learned from scratch without guidelines but my own feelings, without confidence in myself or my abilities. Toss in a war I did to want to be part of, the Marine Corps, poverty, health issues, and so forth. Nevertheless I did survive, did learn, even had a lasting relationship literally until death, and find myself as a old man somewhat surprised and happy to still be around.

    So though I may know next to nothing about being a woman, I do know something undoing false training, having to find my own way blind, with no sign posts, nor teachers, having to literally invent myself as I went, simply by trial and error, in a socially unfriendly world of bullies.

  • Linkage: Robert Anton Wilson, land spirits, and belief || Spiral Nature

    […] review of Loneliness and Revelation. (See our review of Loneliness and Revelation […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: