Is loneliness society’s problem?

Lonely-girlIs loneliness a personal problem or a social problem? Should society make an effort to deal with the fact that so many people are lonely, or is this beyond the scope of social services?

I like to look at how a society could design itself to be more harmonious, cooperative, and loving. That’s my hobby. I like pondering the society I want to live in as opposed to the one we tolerate. For years I have considered loneliness to be among the most critical unaddressed social ills of our time.

There is no shortage of lonely people out there. There are also different kinds of loneliness. The most classic is to be mateless or at a more basic level without someone to date. Yet it can also mean having no close friends with whom to share life’s peaks and valleys. Loneliness can manifest as being in a minority, whether it is racial, ethnic, philosophical, political, socio-economic, religious, sexual orientation, body characteristics, whatever. Plenty of situations make people feel lonely.

In this context, loneliness means feeling isolated or disenfranchised. It means functioning outside of the majority, often way outside the mainstream box. It frequently comes with the price tag of being constantly ridiculed or vilified, sometimes the victim of serious or even fatal abuse and attack.

I believe that chronic loneliness creates chronic problems that in turn are not healthy for society and cost us untold billions. For example, addictions are often ways in which people attempt to cope with their deep feelings of loneliness. It is that profound feeling of being unaccepted, unloved, and disrespected that drives them to coping mechanisms that are often unhealthy choices. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, promiscuity, porn, over-eating, and so on can all be traced to loneliness. Various crimes against society often follow those addictions. Loneliness also leads to disease and mental illness, and in turn, mental illness and disease lead to deeper loneliness.


Every now and then I post something on Facebook about loneliness and I get a mixed reaction. Some people think that loneliness is a personal problem and that society can’t help. No matter what society could do, they say, loneliness is an inner experience. We can feel lonely in a crowd. It’s not the state’s responsibility to fix personal problems, especially one as personal as loneliness.

My take comes from my own experience dealing with my own loneliness. One of the first steps I like to take is to surround myself with upbeat, inspiring media. Doing that puts me into a higher vibration, a friendlier, more outgoing mood. But I have noticed that it’s not that easy to find truly uplifting media. I have to search with pinpoint accuracy.

Much content on TV and in the movies is focused on downer themes and creepy people. It’s hard to watch the news or documentaries and feel good about humanity when most of them are about how shitty someone is. My own experience tells me that finding healthy mind food cannot be left to channel surfing because most mainstream media is a fear-based selling machine. Advertising is based on unnerving us enough to motivate a purchase.

When I am feeling lonely, a logical solution is to find places where people congregate — where single people congregate if I envision meeting someone for romance. However, many of the institutions created for this purpose are businesses like singles bars, dating services, even sex businesses. Other possibilities include churches, workshops and retreats, travel adventures, various clubs. Many of these solutions are where people go to meet people, but it is not the major reason why the entity exists. For example, bars exist to sell liquor, not to provide matchmaking services. Churches exist to sell a religious brand, not for pair-bonding, even though people often meet prospective partners in church.

Of course, one of the best ways to find inspiration is through like-minded friends, but of course that’s usually the problem. You are lonely because kindred spirits are neither around nor available. Finding good friends takes time and requires nurturing.


I believe that if we made it a social priority to provide more resources for dealing with loneliness, it would make a major difference in our world. It could be government sponsored through grants. It could operate as a non-profit or be privately funded through philanthropy. Its purpose would be to provide resources to assist people to improve their life and deal with their loneliness issues.

Here are some services it could include:

A Resource Library. This would be a collection of materials both physical and digital that would provide people with the opportunity to access positive, helpful mind food. For example, if someone was having a particularly rough time, they could go to a website and find a collection of inspirational, solution-based videos and downloadable ebooks addressing various problems related to loneliness.

Curricula. Besides providing access to library materials, various online self-help programs could be created. Content would be specifically geared toward helping people deal with their particular brand of loneliness (which often expresses itself as being discriminated against or ostracized.) In-person classes could also be developed.

Support Group. Loneliness covers a wide rage of causes and manifestations. One of the best ways to turn corners is to talk it out, but support groups are often expensive or focused more on specific addictions like alcohol, drugs, sex/porn, or issues like grief, divorce, suicide, etc. Sponsored support groups could offer techniques and strategies for ending loneliness forever and provide personal networking opportunities.

Networking. Many commercial enterprises have long since used computer database technology to match people, yet because they are profit-driven, they often use questionable tactics that frustrate lonely users. Besides, they are often expensive to use, especially online dating services. An organization could create its own service. Since loneliness covers more territory than romantic, networking can focus on addressing different kinds of needs that different individuals experience.

Gathering Spot. Some facilities could include meeting places where people could gather to socialize. A focus would be on providing resources for dealing with loneliness. People could drop in for coffee and leave with new ideas and encouragement.

Advocacy. I believe that many lonely people feel that Society has told them, “You’re on your own.” And lonely people think, “Yeah, you got that right!” Advocacy would involve making recommendations for social change that would specifically address needs of people who find themselves marginalized, alienated, and discriminated against. Advocacy would also make it more socially viable to find the right kind of help for individual forms of loneliness.

Media. Some advocacy could involve using media channels to more effectively create social awareness about various forms of prejudice, intolerance, and injustice —  and ways to overcome them. Beyond showing the problems as many documentaries might, entertainment could show people overcoming various aspects of loneliness. The film 42 about Jackie Robinson is an example of a movie that tackles the loneliness created by racial prejudice that Robinson dealt with.


At this point my ideas seem even to me to be extremely idealistic. I know that. I envision the society I would like to live in.

A commonality I see in many documentaries about various social ills is how lonely people feel while dealing with their particular situation. It could be a gay person struggling to make ends meet with his or her spiritual hunger. It could be a fat person in high school dealing with mean-spirited peers. It could be someone feeling entrapped in a religious cult whose soul is screaming for liberation. It could be someone recently widowed or divorced or rejected who had taken pain to the core.

It would be grand if there were more places available where people could find healthy answers to their dilemmas.


Here is another post I wrote on loneliness.

What do you truly yearn for?

Waterfall-kissingThe subtitle of my blog Soul Embraces, as you can see, is “What do you truly yearn for?”

I think that some of us are terrified to fully answer that question for ourselves. To actually put a voice to those deep cravings and expose ourselves before a witness — whether that listener is a flesh person or a spirit being — makes us feel very uncomfortable.

I know this happens to me. Here I am this big advocate of creative visualization and writing out your goals and desires, and I often find keen ways to avoid noting my own yearnings in any way but what someone reading my mind could comprehend.


I know that many people resist savoring positive pictures of a desired future — the whole enchilada or just the guacamole highlights — because they don’t want to face the disappointment of not receiving what they yearn for. They figure that if they openly hunger for something, it sets them up to have it denied. Not engaging with these deep wishes keeps them out of the doldrums. “Why wish for something I cannot have?”

In my own case, I recently had a new look at my childhood programming. My mom died in late 2011 and I have been hanging out with my 94 year-old dad in the family home, which has given me fresh insight into my personality development.

As the baby boy of the family, I was not encouraged to voice my wants. I was number 4 in the pack order. My conditioning was mostly to accept what the higher ups wanted. I learned how to be extremely flexible because I was neither taught nor encouraged to take charge, lead, make decisions, or be bold. I was taught to respectfully follow and support the pack. Unwittingly, I was also taught the fine art of passive aggression, or getting my way by quietly manipulating circumstances under the radar (like many women of the 1950-1960s learned how to do.)

As a result I became extremely flexible in dealing with life, such as in handling dull jobs. My hunger was to be a creative writer and exercise my brilliance all day, but economic reality set in and I had to earn a living or starve. I took on brain-numbing clerical jobs. My potent mind kept me personally entertained while many co-workers saw me as an under-achiever.

I also discovered (after a life of learning experiences) that I was programmed to be most egalitarian in love relationships. I strongly believed in partnerships and in supporting my partner. I liked strong women and was very flexible, even comfortable, in letting them take the lead with me singing back-up. My upbringing never featured heavy doses of male privilege consciousness; I was bred to respect and listen to women.

The problems I had occurred when women expected me to flat out take charge. I had little training for that. I was trained to be happy in fourth place.

Childhood also prepared me to be satisfied with not having much materially — not to want. We weren’t impoverished, but I heard the money doesn’t grow on trees lecture enough to constantly be conscious of curbing my yearnings. My parents were children of the Great Depression. Flexible as I had been taught to be, I grew up finding low-cost pleasures. I was trained to be content with what I had and not to dream big. Fourth place.

So with this background, I resist thinking deeply on what do I truly yearn for? I often even have trouble answering the simple question, “What do you want?”

I am programmed to sound a little like a Miss America candidate in my answers to that question. “Oh, I want for everyone to have something happy to smile about.”


I’ve noticed that in pondering my yearnings, I rough sort them into two categories. First are the safe ones, the ones that could easily be spoken to anyone because they are universally acceptable. Yearning to establish a nice vegetable garden is not going to offend anyone. It might even draw praise. I can yearn to go walking in national parks or to get better at Photoshop or to improve my blogging skills or adopt a dog. I am decent enough at making lists like that.

Other yearnings are more problematic. Not as safe. Some require lengthy footnotes and disclaimers.

They’re the ones in the sorting bin that get marked private. Sometimes they’re so private I don’t reveal them even to myself. I discovered this tendency through my reluctance to include them in written visualizations about what I would like my life to look like. Yeah, what do I want?

Well, yummy sex.


I am my biggest critic in the private yearnings category. I judge myself with great ferocity.

“Want sex? Yummy sex? Well, you can’t want it unless you have the committed relationship that goes with it. Jerk. You’re not in love so you shouldn’t want sex. Plain and simple. And make your desire sound more intelligent, will you? Geeze! How much respect are you prepared to lose?”

So in the voices of my inner committee of critics, I encounter the tsunami of pain that turned the bliss of sexual play into a Shakespearean tragedy of angst, rage, and grief. Sexual beauty has been uglified beyond belief in our world. Ironically, sex is farther out of the closet than it has ever been. It has invaded our homes through the Internet with a mere google. Yet I’m shocked at how stubbornly joyless it has become. Sex itself seems to be suffering from a bi-polar disorder.

With sad regularity, different visions of gourmet erotic play flash before my eyes. To me they are beautiful, magical, filled with natural and spiritual wonder. All you need is love. But in a world where the news covers pedophiles, rapists, predators, and other creeps with rapt attention, and we’re being taught to objectify each other as targets for our various lusts, admitting to having a healthy sexual appetite is becoming more dangerous — especially for an older guy like me.

By current pornographic standards, my yearning for intimate rapport would be considered unbearably vanilla — too blunt to showcase in a Hallmark card or to confess at the dinner table, but laughable to those who fancy themselves as erotic sophisticates. My vision of joy between the sheets comes inclusive with all the mental and emotional trimmings of fully engaged intimacy. But how to express it in tweet simplicity in this often-hostile world?


I have learned that admitting what I truly yearn for means confronting fear. Can I admit those precious desires and give fear the razzberry?

One of the better retorts I tell myself is that if I am afraid to give voice to my cravings for soul-filled sex, others are, too. And if everyone is afraid to express their desires, you know what will happen. Yawn. So putting it out there is better than putting it in the vault of secrets. It might actually lead to something.

Another retort is that I am responsible for creating my happiness. I am the author of my life. Waiting for others to create my life — even though being fourth place trained me to do that — doesn’t work very well. Part of creating the life I want is opening the energy doors to yes, I want that.

Why not turn stifling my outburst of desire into inviting and inventing fulfillment? So another retort is that even if so much of the world has turned sexuality into a garbage pit, does it mean that I am required to accept that downer vision as my own? Do I have to wait for the world to enlighten up before I savor the yum? Can I move up to first place now?

Yes! It’s time for me to write out what I truly yearn for, and to include the yummy parts.

Uninvited celibacy

Veggie-womanRelax, this is not a woe is me story. It’s more of a story of discovery of what it has been like to be loverless for the longest stretch in my life since I lost my virginity. (OK, I actually didn’t lose it. I know where it went.)

Not making love for so long has given me new insights about what the experience is all about.

Celibacy is more than not having sex, which is to say that not having sex is more than not engaging in sexual activity — which is to say that sexuality itself is more than mere orgasm production. It’s a cornucopia of body, mind, heart, and spirit.


Sex combines both physical/sensual and nonphysical ingredients. There are the words that flow before, during, and after. The tender words, the hottie words, the encouraging words, the silly words.

I dearly love my female platonic friends, but I have noticed that not being lovers limits communication to certain safe areas. Sexual relationships afford me a free pass to be more spontaneous. Being sexually uncensored appears to give me permission to be less controlled and sanitized in general. I don’t watch my words as carefully.

As Spock would say, “Fascinating.”

Many people raised in our culture of erotic cliches do not see sex as an energy exchange, but I do. I notice myself as being much more rigid, subdued, serious, and deliberate without the lover energy present. You could say I take on the persona of an English butler (too bad the domestic skill set doesn’t come with it.)

I have noted with some dismay that the removal of sex from my life has taken out a huge chunk of life’s fun. Sex frees us to be joyously undignified. We can let our emotions romp. We can soar out of the box. We do not have to be so unfucking appropriate. We can giggle, slobber, moan, coo, scream, cry, writhe, and in the most wondrous sense of the word, feel. We don’t have to be cooped up into our cages of conformity (unless that’s part of your schtick.)

I look at life as a flow of water from the spring to the river to the sea to the air. Being celibate is like the lazier section of the wide, slow-flowing river where nothing much happens. Sex is more like the grand rapids, the awesome waterfalls, even the happy babble of the nudge, nudge, wink, wink brook. I miss the wild water.


In our society with our social training, uninvited celibacy feels like a disease. It feels as if there must be something wrong with me. I feel abnormal. I harbor feelings of being rejected, even when I rationally know it’s not true. I feel less than complete, even broken. Part of the pain is the uncertainty about my future—is this it? Am I done?

Of course I have received friendly advice about being happy with myself, comfortable in being alone. I am my own best friend, companion, even lover. Then there is God and assorted cosmic buds. We are never truly alone, they say.

But I hate any idea that the answer to this drought is trying to find sexual opportunity, like popping aspirin for a headache. Sex to me is too precious a human experience to be downgraded as a commodity—as physical release, as it is often called.

I find a big irony here: if I just wanted to scratch an itch, it would be relatively easy to find physical release. The real full meal deal is more complex. It would require meeting a kindred spirit and a deeper conection.


Not having sex in so long has removed so many of the assumptions and habits of yesteryear. I have noticed within me a strange mixture of awe of sexual possibility and resignation of the passing years. Now everything seems so magical, starting with the most basic and usually taken-for-granted among sensual doings. Loving gazes seem magical. Kissing seems magical. Someone reaching for my hand seems magical. Petting seems magical.

Reminiscent of the trick parents of toddlers pull, simple erotic joys all seem hidden away in a shoebox stored on the top shelf of the closet, out of my reach. Like a little boy wondering what Santa will bring me for Christmas, I ponder and fantasize what lovemaking would be like if it ever shows up in my life again. Will I ever hear “I want you” again?

At the same time, as a social observer, I am saddened by the portrayals of sex I see in the media. It is so often mechanical, grim, rote, scarcely a shred of humanity in it. I often think, “if that’s what I am missing, I am not missing much.” I also concur with one of my favorite lines from It’s a Wonderful Life when the old guy on the front porch grumbles, “Aw, youth is wasted on the wrong people.”

Sex in the movies so often misses simpler joys such as the rapture of cuddling. (Really? Rapture? That’s my point. It sounds foreign because it doesn’t get star treatment. Cuddling is frequently dismissed as dull compared to wild woo-hoo!)


The other day I watched Hope Springs, a story of a married couple played by Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. The Streep character was suffering dearly over her husband’s constant sexual neglect and denial of romantic affection. It was hard to watch as it reminded me of my own loneliness. Especially difficult is knowing that I would have treated her so much better, lavishing her with the love she craved, and yet the senior bad boy got the girl, not me. (OK, it’s just a movie. I get that. But we project ourselves into movies, and that’s what I was feeling.)

I also watched a BBC-produced documentary on grizzly bears. It had nothing to do with human love relationships. But watching these big male bears attempt to beat the crap out of each other to win mating rights (and mating rites) became an unintended reminder of my own nature. Involuntary celibacy is a stark reminder that some form of instinct and conditioning drive me into mate hunger.  Watching big bears growl and swipe at each other reminds me of the competition for love, and in scenes like this they usually show the beaten male limping and bloodied in retreat. Not helpful.

The Internet opens the door to insights and dialogues with strangers, and I have seen various blogs on the theme of sexless marriages. I have seen both sides. I have seen people express their deep sorrows and feelings of failure that uninvited celibacy brings. I have also seen people in sexless marriages ridiculed and demonized as shallow, needy, and immature, like if they simply pushed the right button everything would be fine. Sexual hunger is not taken seriously. Not helpful.

Regarding my own unexpected vacation from lovemaking, I like to say that it is what it is. It has given me new awareness and appreciation for what I had, and sometimes for what I took for granted. It has restored a sense of awe and wonder over the magic of it all. It is one of God’s greatest gifts — and someday we might treat it as such.


A subsequent post continues on this theme — Sexual Dry Spells.

Phone calls from heaven

phone-heavenI read this note this morning while attempting some research on the paranormal.  It was an opening paragraph on a blog post about phone calls from the dead.

Imagine it’s a quiet evening. Earlier in the day a funeral was attended of a beloved family member. Suddenly, the telephone rings. Upon answering the telephone, the voice of the deceased loved one is on the other end. Sound like the opening of a scary science fiction movie? According to some people, phone calls from the dead are real.


This is important.

“Sound like the opening of a scary science fiction movie?”


I contend that a huge amount of people, especially in the so-called civilized countries, have been raised to look at psychic phenomenon as scary stuff. Their diet of input about spirits consists primarily of horror films and eerie ghost stories. It’s all about the evil and horrific side of death.

What if death wasn’t automatically perceived as scary?

Many people who have had near-death experiences report that dying is a piece of cake. Some report that it is like waking up from a sleep dream to your waking reality. Many comment that dying is easy — coming back to physical life is not, especially if there are massive injuries associated with the original NDE

I think it would be great if we started viewing death and dying as less tragic and more natural. The mythology about dying is intense, and generally runs quite contrary to what people who have had NDEs say. In other words, people who’ve had NDEs would look at news reports about dying and have a much different impression about what happened than the news would indicate.


I am leaning towards the belief that so many people resist learning about death and afterlife because they are afraid of discovering that we are held accountable for our actions here on the planet. If they ignore that possibility, they don’t have to worry if they are proud of the life they are living.

Phone calls to and from heaven may sound preposterous, but apparently no less than Thomas Edison had it on his to-do list.

For me, learning about dying and afterlife through reading and listening gives me a great new perspective on life. The idea of receiving phone calls from spirits of so-called dead people is exciting and positive. Contrary to being scared by the prospect, I welcome it as part of the process of evolving life on this planet — as long as this does not include scary telemarketers.

My next life in Earth School

Woman-in-windowI have read extensively about reincarnation and life between lives and near-death experiences where people explore other dimensions of reality. A thought I often entertain, and one that entertains me in return, is trying to imagine my next life.

To me this has become a wake-up call. It’s actually pretty scary. Oh, the woes of abundant empathy!

I’ve had a lot of friends who grew up in abusive situations. Listening to their tales of being mentally tortured, raped, and so on leaves me wondering if I’m so sure I want to come back for another life. What if I ended up in a family like that?

The American Dream is a lot different than it was in the 1950s and 1960s when I was a child.  Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show and The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet were the social benchmarks of what American family life was like. Those ideals are long gone. These days those ideals are fodder for criticism and sarcasm. Life out there has gotten much more brutal.


I often think it would be an improvement in society if we reached the tipping point and realized that we are most likely coming back to this planet many times over. How we treat the planet today literally creates our home for tomorrow. The planet we inherit in our next lifetime is the one we either nurtured or destroyed today. In other words, consequences.

What if we were brought up as kids pledging allegiance to that viewpoint? What if we were raised from early childhood to understand that we will be coming back. We cannot destroy this planet (including groups of people on this planet) to satisfy our current needs if we want to return to a healthy planet in our future lives. No magic Santa Claus will fix the mess we created through our avarice and neglect.

I often wonder why science and government have been so slow in investigating the nature of death and the possibility (probability?) of reincarnation. We seem to be much more interested in developing new weapons systems (gee I wonder who profits from that?) over answering cosmic questions that could truly revolutionize life on our planet. It’s almost as if the veil of ignorance is being kept over our heads on purpose. Gee, I wonder who profits from that?

When I grew up, I heard repeatedly that the Russians wanted to A-bomb the crap out of us. What if I would have grown up repeatedly hearing that if we bombed the crap out of some other country, we would have to spend another lifetime living as a child in a country that had the crap continually bombed out of it?


Within my own belief system, I believe that if I am filled with hatred, prejudice, and malice against an ethnic group or a gender, there’s a good chance that I will have to come back and experience it myself. So for example if I were to abuse or exploit women,  a future life would see me incarnating as a girl with a soul contract with others for them to similarly abuse or exploit me.

Looking at reincarnating as a female while I am currently ensconced in a male body shines a very interesting light on the subject. Would I retain any of the insights that I have amassed as a sometimes brooding, usually sensitive male who loved a few times and lost? Would I understand male longing for female love? Or would I come back, encounter a bunch of hardships directly related to being a woman, like being exploited and abused, and in turn develop a new, seething hatred for men? (and would it actually be new, considering I’m not crazy how men in general treat women?)

Logically, many solutions to social problems could be embedded in and inspired by the knowledge that we do, indeed, come back and that we do, indeed, experience what we have sown — even if those seeds had been genetically modified.

Happily, this works in the other direction, too. The more we nurture the planet, champion diversity, cooperate and love one another, the more we build homes for tomorrow that we will like to return to.

She’s not my girlfriend

KinshipFor most of my life, my best friends have been females. This trend began early in childhood when my best buddy was the girl four doors up the street. I was three.

That trend continues to this day. I have spent a lifetime trying to figure it out. Some of the reasons are obvious. Most of my interests are things that the average dude shuns. And vice versa.

I am not a sports fan. I don’t like war or fighting. I have pathetic carpentry and mechanical skills. I am not a cutthroat businessman. I am not very competitive, especially for entertainment.

I am into emotions and feelings. I love sensuality. I have a passion for emotional intimacy and connection. I love wondering why we are here and how things could be better right here.

Generally speaking, and I wish this weren’t necessarily so, women get me more than men get me. Women look at me less strangely than men. I find myself shutting up less with women than with men.


I have become aware of  the social assumption that if I am seen with a female, and especially if we are having a great time together, she must be my girlfriend. And girlfriend has a whole different connotation and level of expectation than friend and acquaintance do. Of course I know my truth within my soul, but sometimes the rest of the world wants to impose its social expectation on me.

This situation has different ramifications depending on my current relationship status — and hers.

When I am in a love relationship, my platonic girlfriends sometimes walk a fine line. They often feel they have to go out of their way to prove to my romantic partner that they are not threatening a hostile takeover or dealing in covert operations.

Other people who don’t know me well assume that if I have fun with a female not my romantic partner, I must — simply must — be plotting something naughty behind the barn.

Similarly, when my single platonic female friends enter love relationships, it often creates from them a very noticeable backing off from our friendship. Whoosh! Either they are worried about stressing out their new love’s feelings or their new love is clearly a jealous type.

When I am not seeing anyone romantically, I am still not free and clear. It seems it’s not common for a guy to have platonic female friends who are single. The biological potential of heterosexual mating attracts snarky remarks of the nudge, nudge, wink, wink variety. Like, “He says it’s platonic but just look at her. Yeah, right. Look at her!”

When I am not seeing someone romantically, my platonic friends sometimes back off, too. Perhaps they’re afraid I am not so platonic after all or they think they should signal to the world that I am truly available for dating. When they pull away I feel lonelier than ever.


I find this situation more than a personal inconvenience for me. I think it is a sad reflection on how fear of intimacy keeps us isolated and in-the-box. Somewhere along the line it may have been well-intentioned to keep the genders separate so that a married or “committed” person of one gender did not develop meaningful friendship with the other gender. But in my view of the universe, the creation of suspicion, guilt, shame, and mistrust to keep the genders apart only makes us weaker human beings.

Much of this segregation, I believe, is due to our culturally immature attitudes, stereotypes, and mythologies about sex. We’ve dumbed it down into a caraciture to sell in every which way possible.

One myth here is that attractive heterosexual friends cannot resist without great effort the urge to get naked and let nature take its course. It’s as if the sex urge is just too powerful. Barbie needs Ken, and Ken is always horny.