What an awful word L O N E L I N E S S is! An illness of one, the words ‘illness’ and ‘one’ literally in it, along with ‘lone’ and ‘ill’. The word is most potently representative of its meaning when written in upper case letters spaced far apart, as I saw it on television this morning. Ten letters equal in height, spelling out the bleakest emotional landscape of all. L O N E L I N E S S. ‘I am so lonely, I need somebody’: loneliness is the desire for company and warmth, a shivering stranger pining for that phantom hut in the snow, glowing hearth ‘neath thatched roof under starry sky, the hearth an earthly star to the crescent moon formed by a semicircle of friends conversing jovially in its fiery berth. What warmth; what company. But the word we are discussing here is one of coldness; it even looks cold to the eye. ‘i’ is almost in the middle of the word (L O N E L I N E S S), the smallest letter, taking the least space. I suppose existence becomes faint when one cannot put oneself in relation to others. If there is no-one to recognise you for who and what you are, how and why do you exist? There is no ‘u’ in loneliness. Loneliness is an illness of one.
S O L I T U D E, on the other hand, trumps soldier with attitude, the word S O L D I E R almost entirely in it. There is an ‘i’ and a ‘u’, an ‘ode’ and a ‘soul’: an ode to your soul. Unlike its pneumonic cousin above (L O N E L I N E S S), it is stoic and unwavering in appearance. It does not cry out for company. Instead, S O L I T U D E celebrates the strength and freedom wielded by a company of one. Even far apart and in upper case the letters look sturdy and well-defined, rooted in confidence. S O L I T U D E commands not attention but admiration, self-admiration: ‘I am my own person, large and full of multitudes’. It is the friend of quiet contemplation and artistic expression—one reads, paints, writes, composes best when alone. ‘I am a complete, wholesome soul all by myself, my existence needs no reassurance for I am sure of myself,’ the word announces, proud on a podium.
Solitude is a closed fist punching the air, loneliness is a limp hand begging to be held. I punch the air. I march to the beat of my own drums. To the steady beat of my heart I say to myself: ‘I am, I am, I am’.