“All religion, all life, all art, all expression come down to this: to the effort of the human soul to break through its barrier of loneliness, of intolerable loneliness, and make some contact with another seeking soul, or with what all souls seek, which is (by any name) God.” ~Don Marquis (1878-1937)

I am a rather extreme introvert according to all of the personality tests I have ever taken. I function best one-on-one or in small groups, and I require a lot of alone time to recharge my batteries. I enjoy time by myself. I treasure my alone time; there is never quite enough of it. And yet as much as I treasure my time alone, I am also well acquainted with the intolerable loneliness that Don Marquis refers to in his quote. In fact, my favorite poem (below) is about this kind of loneliness.


Like a hole in heart,
Drains the life from my soul,
Emptying every part.

It’s not people I want.
No, that makes it worse.
All alone in a crowd
Is the ultimate curse.

Just one person I want—
A soul mate, a friend
With a listening ear
And a love without end.

To know and be known
Is my soul’s desperate call.
For a life lived unshared
Isn’t living at all.

©1997 KJ Stanton

For me, that kind of loneliness has nothing to do with having people around. In fact, the more people there are, the more likely I am to experience that kind of loneliness. The kind of loneliness he talks about is a deep yearning for true connection with another—someone who will really see me and appreciate me as I am. It’s a longing to likewise connect with someone else in order to deeply know them in the same way I wish to be known. This loneliness often has the feel of desperation to it for me. It’s an unscratchable itch, an unending ache. Although I’ve never heard anyone else express this same feeling, I suspect from observing others around me that I’m far from alone in this.

So I agree with Don Marquis; I do think that all religion, all life, all art, all expression are driven by the desire to assuage this loneliness. I know it motivates all of my creative expression. It drives my spirituality and my religious seeking. It fuels my need to write.

I’m finding, though, that as I begin to accept the idea that the divine is in me and not just somewhere outside of me, the ache is lessened slightly. I suspect that the more I am able to comprehend and appreciate the fact that we are interconnected will help with this as well. But as long as I am in a physical body that separates me from others, I suspect that this ache will live on at some level.

My new challenge for myself is to use this ache as fuel to drive me to more creative expression, to fuller living, to a richer spiritual life, instead of allowing it to cause me to stagnate in navel gazing or chase my tail in desperate attempts to find a band-aid for the ache. If I can accept it as a part of living—something to be expected, not to be eliminated—then I hope to use it for growth.