The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.
Our world has never been more connected and more isolated. A phone call from my iPhone in the United States to a coworker in India is a marvel of technical accomplishment. I might be sitting by the lake in a remote part of rural Texas, but the signal zips through digital and analog circuitry across high speed lines, through perhaps hundreds of routers, into space and back – all in a few seconds. When she answers the call in Hindi however, though we have certainly accomplished connectivity, no communication has occurred.
Communication is of essence, spiritual.
As Malcolm Guite writes:
The poem was written at the end of the eighteenth century, but in some respects the loneliness evoked in this verse may strike us even more deeply in the twenty-ﬁrst century than it did its ﬁrst readers. Loneliness of this profound kind, utter isolation, a sense of being cut off not only from other people but from the cosmos itself, has come to be one of the most common experiences, even perhaps the deﬁning experience, of our own age. And this is not simply the loneliness of the increasing numbers in our society who are living alone, from the bereaved or abandoned elderly, to the middle-aged divorced, to singles in their minimalist studio ﬂats, but a deeper more endemic kind of loneliness: a sense of disconnection, anomie, alienation; that even when we are with people we are somehow all the more isolated in our own tiny, absurd, islanded consciousness, separated and marooned in the concavity of our own little skulls with a wide, wide sea of nothingness between us and any other. Ironically, this feeling of isolation is actually deepened rather than relieved by the plethora of online social networks and the almost manic fury with which we acquire virtual friends only to ﬁnd that no one actually knows us, not even we ourselves.
The root cause of this loneliness is philosophical. It reﬂects the shift at the birth of modernism, from the living, sacral view of the cosmos as an inter-connected web of human and angelic consciousnesses all participating, to a greater or lesser degree, in an all-pervasive divine presence, expressed in and through the physical, to the modern mechanistic, instrumental view of nature in which matter is dead, inert, and essentially meaningless, its motion caused by blind mechanism and its apparent ﬂashes of beauty and meaning no more than a mirage.
What is the cure to LONELINESS?
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Rick Wilcox is Editor in Chief