Where Were You When the World Was Lonely?
Finding your inner peace and outward strength.
Posted May 22, 2020
I wrote this poem for a dear friend — and now with their permission, I would like to share it with you:
People will ask
“Where were you when the world was lonely?”
I was always here
While you —
Loneliness can be a gift.
A time for new thinking.
A time for new ways of renewal.
For tomorrow will surely come
And in those days thereafter
What you did today
And what you do tomorrow
Will be your future.
You are strong, best alone
Though better still
When we’re together.
Best Alone. Better Together. Always.
We live at a time where there is so much "Emotional Filo Pastry" — brittle layers of anxiety and perplexing questions that don’t seem to be answered.
For most, our urgency for assurance — in this time of COVID-19 — can so easily crush our day.
We don’t like dangerous uncertainty in our lives. We need to feel we have at any time an array of options that allow reasonable control. That's natural. And so, when we find ourselves in this dark place — where so much is out of our hands and all we can rely upon are others to determine the cure, either through social regulation or a potentially far out medical solution — it's perfectly reasonable to feel somewhat bereft, wondering what tomorrow may bring.
All of what I’ve just shared is simply to confirm that if indeed you are feeling this way, you are not alone. Even though I think I’m pretty much in control of myself, I can't help but feel scattered at times. Yet even uncertainty, such as what we are facing, still brings choices.
Despite the calamity that has befallen mankind, we do have a number of positive elements we can hold on to. The two that immediately spring to mind are hope and renewal.
Allow me to reflect upon the importance of hope first: Hope is the drug that keeps mankind sane. However, hope without a purpose, plan, and some reasonable effort invariably turns to nothing.
It is fundamentally a part of our human nature to believe that whatever difficulty faces us can be overcome; and now especially in these naked times, we must not disavow ourselves of our spiritual and emotional refuge.
Hope gives life and purpose to our essential humanity — after all, the eternal quest to search for and discover new meaning for our very existence separates us from other life forms. If that were not the case, the greatest discoveries of the world would not have happened, and opportunities, waiting to be embraced, would have been squandered.
Just think upon this for a moment: All the laboratories of the world are places dedicated to discovery, but those discoveries go through many failures and many missteps before the solution comes together. They are places of hope, but many stumbles must be endured on the path to success. Renewal will be like this.
At epic moments such as this, no matter what our fears may be, we must do what we can to be progressive. This is especially true if we are one of those who still have an income, are able to see a positive outlook; for there are many that are destitute, in dire need of help, who fear if they can even place food on the table, let alone the courage and fortitude to find a smile for those who depend upon them. They are the truly unfortunate. Allow them dignity.
For many of them, survival will come from change — not hibernation. The millions of unemployed can’t live by staying at home. They cannot earn money by tapping on computers and going on Zoom. They will need to be re-skilled. That is how they will find their new place. They don’t want charity. They need renewal and the power of hope — it is the only way.
Those of us who are fortunate enough will have to give a little more and take a little less.
Entire institutions will have to create new pathways. They will have to fundamentally renew through authentic purpose, reshaping not just for commercial survival but foundationally for the common good.
The ambiguity of the present tense and the uncertainty of what a new way of life will bring, does make a cold morning feel colder and yet this enforced separation from what we assumed as our right to a normal co-existence just a few weeks ago, must be embraced — not as the new normal, as some would like to say — for it is anything but, but rather a time in life, to reset, to repurpose and learn.
Through the darkness and the recess of hope for so many, waits the ever-flickering light of renewal. But it will take all the kindness in humankind.
Only in truly giving can the world receive.
Were we to allow it to be so, this could become a true Genesis of a Social Reset.
To make this happen, there needs to be both a will and a way. And it starts with how we reset ourselves.
To avoid the unthinkable, we must as United Nations rethink, reset, renew.
But it must start with self; of course one drop does not make the rain, but the rain is made of billions of drops.
As it relates specifically to me, I now find myself stopping a moment longer, thankful and mindful that my predicament is but a stumble of inconvenience, unlike so many others: those who work in fearsome and dangerous conditions in the quest to save lives and support those in dire need; the endless thousands who have lost their loved ones, who cannot feed their families and have no place to shelter; where for now sadly there is so much less of hope in their day.
Life is renewal. It is a perpetual ballet of motion. Standing still and postponing all and everything until the excuse of the tomorrow is not the answer.
Simply accepting the status quo can so easily become the cul-de-sac in our lives.
We should never allow perceived dead-ends to become part of our nature.
We should try harder not to allow the cold winds to diminish our belief in all the future possibilities.
Renewal, however, has to come from a point of reality.
We messed around with nature. Now we need to nurture. To find the cure. To heal. To Learn. Thoughts must turn to deeds. There is no time for politics, acts of reprisal, gamesmanship.
Tomorrow is a promise, but today as we live is a certainty.
In the words of Hugh Laurie, the British actor: “It’s a terrible thing in life to wait until you’re ready. I have a feeling that actually no one is ready to do anything. There is no such thing as ready. There’s only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
Through the force of well-intentioned hope and the power of renewal, good will come from bad.
So how am I doing while the world is lonely?
I am trying to be right here, while so many are everywhere with their fears and displacement.
I don’t have all the answers, but I am willing to see and not just look.
I am trying to listen and not just hear.
And yes, I am okay with being vulnerable as I seek to find different layers of strength from the moments.
Already, having myself suffered the COVID-19 illness, I refuse to see the space that I find myself in as some void of barren emptiness — rather it’s an untendered, yet fertile, field of new possibilities.
Suddenly where there was once a cacophony of endless noise and unhelpful distraction, now I am dealing with a different type of space — a positively evolving moment and place that brings new types of accented challenge and yet certain possibilities too.
This new space does allow me to be best alone.
The quietness affords me the opportunity to think deeper and wider than perhaps I did before.
I do things at a different and often more considered pace.
I listen to sounds that I think are new, yet were always there.
I take longer when I cook for my loved ones.
I give more time to the important conversations.
I walk a field further.
I drink a glass of wine slower.
And most importantly, in my own small way, I help others. I don’t need to grandstand about it. I am just thankful I am the helper and not on the other side.
And now, more fully than ever before, I appreciate the times I get together with my friends, my work colleagues, and my family.
While at times I am best alone, I know for certain I am much better when I am together with those who, in so many ways, make me more purposeful, more focused, more associative, and more giving.
Best Alone. Better Together. Always.