Issue #61 / September 2019

How long will I be alone?


Dear Liii,

I am sorry I have taken so long to answer this question. You sent it to The Red Hand Files almost nine months ago and I have carried it with me all this time, wanting to answer, but never quite knowing how. I think this little question has stayed with me, not just because of the lovely beat of pathos in it, but also because of its extraordinary existential reach. It seemed that it spoke to all of us, yet it felt simply beyond me to answer.

Aloneness and loneliness are two very different things, of course. I spend much of my time alone; I always have. I have learnt that being alone, as bereft as it perhaps feels to some, is busy with meaning and disclosure. For me, it is an essential place that intensifies the essence of oneself, in all its rampant need. It is the site of demons and sudden angels and raw truths; a quiet, haunted place and a place of unforeseen understandings. A place of unmasking and unveiling. It can be industrious or melancholic or frightening, sometimes all at the same time, yet within it there is a feeling of a latent promise that holds great power. Like Jesus praying alone in the garden, or Mary Magdalene alone at the mouth of Christ’s tomb, aloneness holds moments that tremble on the brink of revelation and great change.

And then there is loneliness, which is aloneness without choice, an enforced condition that yearns for recognition, to be seen and to be heard. This brave and unguarded admission appears to be the aching heart of your question. As I sat on the plane travelling to Reykjavik for the last show of my ‘In Conversation’ tour, I felt suddenly that there was something I could say to you. Having spent much time travelling on this tour alone, it struck me that your question didn’t have to be answered, but simply acknowledged; that to reach out to you, as you reached out to me, could in itself be the answer and, perhaps, a remedy – to say to you, you are not alone, we are here, and that we, a multitude, are thinking of you.

Love, Nick


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