Flavorless 3/2/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Today a thought occurred as I was watching a movie. The movie was “He Never Died”, a 2015 film with Henry Rollins (who I believe also produced it). It’s basically a vampire film with a twist where Rollin’s character, Jack, basically has been alive since, well, the beginning of sin. So, a while.

His character is very interesting. He is moody and has no interest in anything. In a violent outburst at one point, he basically is screaming “LET ME DIE!” Usually his character is humorless, displays no anger, has no joy, passion, fear, or disappointment. He just is.

Can you imagine what it must be like to drift through the days, years, decades, millennia without death? Seeing everybody around you die either in violence, illness or old age as you just drift. Rollins plays this role brilliantly, as a cursed creature living a life that has lost all flavor, has no meaning, that has been so long that all joy is gone.

But where does the flavor of life originate? Tom Hanks played a role in Cast Away where he was marooned on an island alone. He was so desperate for human interaction that he befriended a volleyball and started looking for ways to end his existence. I think this is it. The flavor in our lives come from others. Rollins was surrounded by people but saw them as nothing but temporary with no more significance than a leaf from a tree. His character had relationships in the past, but they just all evaporate like so many puddles after a rain. As such, he has distanced himself from people and imprisoned himself in his own isolation in a situation not significantly different from Tom Hank’s character found himself on the island.

And not terribly differently than I find myself.

There are so many lonely people out there, with levels of loneliness as fine as the colors of a rainbow. There are elderly whose only company was more or less the people delivering food from Meals on Wheels. There are people isolated in retirement homes lonely and desiring nothing more than a visit from their children and grandchildren. There are widows and widowers who have lost the one only true love in their lives and cannot move on.

Today, I’m facing issues at work that are making me feel particularly alone. I don’t know that people can really understand the depth of each other’s loneliness. I have a friend in a marriage who feels very lonely, and while I know this is the case, I can’t really understand it. I was very lonely in a marriage but only for a couple of years (and you can take time off from the “honeymoon” phase where I thought we were happy). I can understand what she means when she says she is lonely in her marriage, but I never really experienced it, so how can I say that I understand? Without this common experience, she can no more explain her loneliness than I can explain color to someone who has been born blind.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a dark office looking at the inky blackness outside of my window. I find it difficult to complain; this time last year I was living with a friend who was kind and generous enough to give me a place to live to keep me off of the street, but I am, still, very lonely. In a house too large for a single old man like me, it’s a constant reminder that I should have somebody here, a woman with whom to share my life, and perhaps children to raise and yet, there is nothing.

I’ve known a lot of lonely people throughout my life. I’m guessing that you do as well. In New York City, on the very first day that I arrived, three times I was told by three different people that within two weeks I wouldn’t even see the homeless. These people lived on every block between my apartment and work, sleeping on folded cardboard boxes and eating the discarded food of those more fortunate. The day I left, I still saw every homeless person on every block. I never wanted to be the kind of person to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. These people face loneliness surrounded by strangers every day in a city of millions. I cannot understand their depth of desperate loneliness, and yet I never really fit in there, so I was lonely as well in a way they could not understand.

There is no doubt you know somebody who is lonely. Reach out to them, ask if they’re okay, reassure them of their role in your life. It could mean their life.

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