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All Alone! A Divergent Summary.

I believe it was Dr. Seuss who said:

All Alone!

Whether you like it or not,

Alone will be something

you’ll be quite a lot.

-from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

But who said the best things in life come in threes? In Buddhism, you might say that the quickest wisdom comes that way too: when your practice, your community, and your teachers all deliver the same message to you seemingly at once.

In one of the final Fearless Mind classes, Shastri Ethan Nichtern said something about fear being connected to the understanding that no one else can ever experience what you experience (and therefore truly understand your experience). During the next week or so, this dropped in for me as I witnessed my impulse to speak as intimately connected to my desire not to be alone. Later, I was disappointed when I noticed that the community that I was studying with was not going to deliver me from this sense of loneliness. At most, there might be people who walk beside me, but every understanding I make is an understanding I make alone. When I sit, I sit alone.

The more I study and practice, the more I find myself a bit in the middle of nowhere, with few precious opportunities to share and discuss my experience. With practice and insight comes inspiration and energy. At times, I have so much inspiration and energy built up that when I do have a sympathetic ear, my speech is loquacious, aggressive, and unaware.

We are alone because we are born into separate human bodies, and we have separate human experiences. This is not to say that there isn’t a basic interdependence in our world or that our bodies won’t become earth, water, and light when we die, but while we are here, there is no doubt about it, we are the only ones who experience what we experience.

Time together is so precious, you know? Best not waste it trying to find a way out of this.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said it well enough in Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior:

…having completely renounced his own comfort and privacy, paradoxically, the warrior finds himself more alone. He is like an island sitting alone in the middle of a lake. Occasional ferry boats and commuters go back and forth between the shore and the island, but all that activity only expresses the further loneliness, or the aloneness, of the island. Although the warrior’s life is dedicated to helping others, he realizes that he will never be able to completely share his experience with others. The fullness of his experience is his own, and he must live with his own truth. Yet he is more and more in love with the world. That combination of love affair and loneliness is what enables the warrior to constantly reach out to help others. By renouncing his private world, the warrior discovers a greater universe and a fuller and fuller broken heart. This is not something to feel bad about: it is a cause for rejoicing. (69)

image from Wikimedia Commons

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Very Insightful

I loved this. Alone, yes, that is a scary thing, yet entirely unavoidable. It is interesting how we react to others actually listening to us - how we can be aggressive in the face of our own vulnerability. Writing, art, books - modes of expression - language - there is something about communication that can be a source of divisiveness, but also something so precious that it can help us put things in perspective - to realize the preciousness of a sympathetic ear, or a saying in a children's book. To see a bit of one's own experience shared with us can be a very intimate thing. One of the kindest things you can do is to actually listen to somebody - I didn't quite understand the value in this until I started taking an interest in Buddhism, and then, actually LISTENING to people and feeling LISTENED TO as a result :) Thanks for the thoughtful post, Robert as per usual, it was beautiful.


Just saw this when clicking around. Thanks for your thoughts and comment.

I hadn't thought about it that much, but, yes, being listened to gives one some relief!


As I was reading again yesterday, I was surprised how much wisdom there is in that book. I agree with you.

I'm afraid that some

I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

Oh, the Places You'll Go is one of my favorite sutras, Robert, because it talks so concretely about many places along the path.

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