Thursday, June 29, 2017

Isolation is a Growing Problem

I read an article about isolation. I think the part where he says...

"During the week, much of my waking life revolves around work. Or getting ready for work. Or driving to work. Or driving home from work. Or texting my wife to tell her I’m going to be late getting home from work."

...tells a lot. It also points to a way out of the isolation. Think about it. Our society is built on isolation. It doesn't matter if it is by design, or not. The isolation is caused by the methods we employ. Like driving to or from work.

 The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.
The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.

When I lived in Albuquerque, I found that I no longer needed a car. Because I am a veteran I could ride the city bus for free. All I had to do is show my Veterans I.D., and I was good to go. Also I could ride the Rail Runner train for free because I am a veteran. I thought, "What do I need a car for when I can get to anywhere I want to go using public transport, and pay nothing?". So I sold my car.

I found that the benefits were plenty. No more buying gasoline. No more paying for auto repairs. No more paying for auto insurance. I had a lot more money to use for other things once I got rid of that car.

I found something else that I hadn't even considered when I got rid of the car. I found friendly faces, and new friends. I am a gregarious kind of a guy. I'll talk to everybody, and anybody about anything. When I walked to the bus stop, I found friendly people who were willing to talk to me. On the bus I found the same thing. After some time passed, the faces became familiar faces with names I remembered. If one of these now familiar faces were missing, I wondered if they were okay. I was not isolated anymore. I was part of a group. I had lots of friends, and met new ones all the time.

Then one day it hit me. I seen the isolation. I seen thousands of people all by themselves. Even though they were surrounded by thousands of people, they were all sequestered inside a wheeled box made of metal, glass and plastic. Not only that, they lived and worked in boxes, sequestered from everybody else. They lived in a box. They went to work in a box, and their work was in a box. The only people they knew were the people at work, or the ones at home. Maybe they knew a few people at the local store, but that knowing as only an acquaintance. Not a real friend.

Isolated People in a Wheeled Box
I remember when I was a child. On the street where I lived, everyone knew everyone else. That was in days before the air conditioner drove people indoors. Neighbors and their kids were outside, and they greeted one another. They sat in the shade of a tree, and conversed. One parent scolded the child of another for being unruly, and the other parents thanked them for it. You don't see that today.

People come home in a box (car) from working in a box, and go straight back into their home box. Maybe they give a passing nod to the person living right next door, but they do not really know them, and neither are they really friends. I think if all the cars in the world were melted down, and all the people had to take public transport, maybe people would be better off. They would know one another. They would lose the fear they have of one another. They would lose isolation.

I don't live in the big city any more. I live in a small town without public transport like city busses. I do feel somewhat isolated. Because of lessons learned from that year without a car, I go out of my way to make friends. I made it a point to get to know my neighbors. Now they are all my friends. I walk around the small town I live in and wave to people as they pass by. I talk to the people in the local stores, and get to know them.

Even though I feel a bit isolated, I don't feel that so much as I did when I first moved here. That's because I made an effort to break that isolation. I'm still working on that effort by being outgoing and gregarious.

My advice to anyone who lives in the big city, and feels lonely, is to get out of the habit of using an auto to go everywhere. Walk to the bus stop and strike up a conversation with somebody. When you see someone outside in your neighborhood, again strike up a conversation. Talk about anything. The weather, the kids, the color of the sky, it doesn't matter because one thing leads to another. Then you will find new meaning and friends for your life. Get out of the box.