Saturday, May 20, 2006

Foreign dreams

This morning's news is reminiscent of the furor over WMDs in Iraq with conflicting stories about whether Iran is or is not going to require Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians to wear colored bands to denote them from Iranian Muslims. Some news services are refusing to run the story, considering it a hot potato that could land them in boiling soup. It's an easy problem to solve. Get a copy of the new Iranian law currently making the rounds in Parliament and read it. With a politically surprising leader like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has scored major points in the international community with his letter to President Bush on May 8, a letter Bush has yet to answer, anything is possible.

When I woke this morning I was thinking more of a friend's pain and his question to me last night than of politics.

He called and sounded depressed. He was. Earlier this week a friend died and he accidentally discovered his girlfriend had been having an affair with his friend while she was with him. He told me their relationship was rocky enough and he was part of the problem, and if he had known of her infidelity he would have ended things and saved them both a lot of pain and grief. Then he asked me something I have pondered many times, "Is it better to just live alone?"

I'll admit that there have been times I have wondered the same thing, especially when love has me on the ropes and it seems my only options are remaining alone or futilely chasing after love.

My answer to him was no. We all need other people to survive. We need the touch and presence and sound and fury of other people, of at least one other person, to make our lives worthwhile. We need to be touched. Babies sicken and die without the soothing sound of a voice and the gentle touch of other people. We all need to be loved, to be seen, to be known.

There are worse things than being alone. Living with someone who never touches you and who you never touch is worse. In fact, that kind of relationship attacks the immune system and the body as well as the mind and heart and soul so that the person dies by inches every single day. Being alone is almost as devastating at times, forcing people to seek comfort elsewhere -- anywhere.

Is it any wonder that studies have shown people living alone, especially the elderly, who have a pet they can stroke and talk to and hold and love show the effects in lowered blood pressure and stress and increased health? For some, plants are the answer, but a plant cannot touch you and certainly cannot speak or bark or whistle or sing or purr. Makes sense when you think about little old ladies living with cats and/or dogs; they need the companionship to live.

It's not just about the science, it's about people. We all need other people, other living beings to recognize us, to acknowledge us, to be present in our lives. Maybe that's why some people choose to stay in toxic and dysfunctional relationships; the alternative is being alone without the sound of another's voice or the touch of another's hand. Why else would we strive so hard to connect with other people?

A human can go for weeks without food, days without water and only minutes without air. Without touch we can live years, but each moment is full of a painful longing we fill with shopping, food, mindless hours of television, surfing the Internet, sleep and the body failing by inches, the heart and soul dying slowly like a baby never touched, a plant or animal never fed or watered. We are not meant to be alone.

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