Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Loneliness and Solitude. Filling the Void Inside

Hans Thoma, Loneliness, 1880


This is a bit of a ‘free flow of thought’ post about a common fear of being lonely.

Homo sapiens is a social animal: the mankind has evolved in tribes and the solitary lifestyle is not natural for us. Yet the world is changing, urbanization and overpopulation create pressures for the traditional family model.

Nowadays, an individual doesn’t require support of his/her tribe to survive, so there is less demand to form a family. At the same time, economical pressures make it hard for parents to support children in urban environments. In a traditional tribe it was possible to raise children together by communal labour, by sharing resources. In a non-communal environment, one family has to pay for schooling, education, etc. of their kids, often even without support from grandparents. It is stressful and practically all parents’ schedule looks like a perpetual “work->kids->work” Groundhog Day. It’s no wonder many people who treasure their independence, who want to succeed in their careers and personal vocations/hobbies postpone the matrimonial business until they settle down firmly in their lives or even decide not to marry or have kids at all.

But how to deal with ‘single-dom’, with growing old without grandchildren running around? There is this fear of solitude.

In my opinion, people should follow their desires and aspirations. If they want family and kids, but are afraid to commit, they should address their fears and start a family. Creating a family is about accepting willingly adult responsibilities, it should not be an unwanted duty.

Others may not want family or children, but are afraid of being lonely, so they marry and procreate anyway, but often it doesn’t help, since there was no love in it. Adults in such loveless families cannot fill the emptiness inside; kids growing up like that get a wrong idea what a family should be. Emptiness can only be filled from inside, with love, with realization of you doing meaningful things. One can only be happy if she lives following her heart not the expectations of friends, parents, the society.

A person who finds his/her meaning in life and lives with passion attracts other people and has a greater chance to build a happy family. Yet even staying single such individual can still be happy. The void inside can only be filled from inside.

Lev Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina provides a great example of how conflict between personal desires and expectations of the society can ruin our lives. Anna is in a loveless marriage, but her love of her son makes it bearable. Then she falls in love with a young single man and decides to have an affair with him. Her husband blackmails her: either Anna should leave her lover or they would divorce and Anna would never see her son again. Anna is torn between the man she’s in love with and her son. Unable to choose, she kills herself. It could have been different. Her husband Karenin, being a devote Christian, could have forgiven her. He could’ve divorced her and still allowed her to see their son. He could have re-married a woman right for him, and Anna would’ve stayed alive. Anna married a man without love, because the society expected her to marry an eligible man at a certain age. She was too young to know what was good for her.

Anna Karenina couldn’t choose her destiny as a young girl growning up in the patriarchal Russia, but we can, at least, those of us living in the democratic countries.

This novel is a lesson to all of us: we shouldn’t let our emotions, prejudices, fears of being judged, etc. destroy our lives or live according to someone else’s dreams not ours. And we shouldn’t force our children to live the old, traditional way. Every person has the right to mature and decide for herself.

Solitude is often inevitable, but it’s not a curse, it’s a gift, an opportunity to reflect, to build our inner world. When we are alone, we can read books, educate ourselves, learn new things, become more interesting to ourselves and to others. We need to learn to be self-reliant, to live a meaningful life, to be pro-active. If we need a company (whether it’s friends or family) – it should not be the need to disperse our loneliness or boredom but, instead, to share the rich world inside us, to give love,  to pass knowledge, experience, to be gracious to each other.



Your brilliant thoughts