Sunday, December 2, 2007
How Loneliness Relates To Health
This weekend we decided to make a visit to the National Gallery of Art to see the Edward Hopper exhibit.
The Nyack, New York painter came to fame between the two wars of the past century and came to represent introspection and solitude. "The loneliness thing is overdone," he once said.
Perhaps he was right, but the element of loneliness is recurrent precisely because so many people seem to respond to that element in his work. Loneliness and alienation have been buzzwords for the past hundred years and more.
We find ourselves living within the same spaces, crowded in big cities, shoulder to shoulder with other human beings and yet we crave relationship. I have always thought it ironic that the father of existentialism was almost a pastor, but in my mind, I originally associated the movement with Sartre and Camus and the 'ungodly' notions of boredom, dread and nothingness.
Humans have been grieving the passing of relationship and community since agrarian societies melted into the haze or urban life. We are disconnected from each other and it can affect how you feel about yourself. Self-perceived health status is related to feelings of loneliness. Social isolation is increasing.
We are complete biological, social and psychological organisms and what happens in one area affects the others. Mechanisms have not been elucidated, so there is speculation of which there are examples here and here.
We want health care to keep us healthy. It won't work. Medicine is at its best taking care of disease. It will do nothing for our connectedness, or lack thereof.
As Edward Hopper said, "If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint."