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Loneliness as a Way of Life

Loneliness as a Way of Life

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Loneliness as a Way of Life
    Book Description:

    "What does it mean to be lonely?" Dumm asks. His inquiry, documented in this book, takes us beyond social circumstances and into the deeper forces that shape our very existence as modern individuals. The modern individual, Dumm suggests, is fundamentally a lonely self. This book challenges us, not to overcome our loneliness, but to learn how to re-inhabit it in a better way.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-03437-2
    Subjects: Philosophy, History, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Prologue: Cordelia’s Calculus
    (pp. 1-20)

    Her father the King has just announced that he is abdicating. Her sisters have avidly praised the old man, swearing their love in absolute terms in order to get their shares of his estate. Now he turns to the youngest daughter to elicit her testimony of love in front of the assembled court. Somehow we already feel that the kingdom hangs in the balance with her response.

    The right words of love and she inherits her share. If she fails to say the right words, bad things will happen. That her sisters cannot be trusted is proven by the answers...

  5. Chapter I Being
    (pp. 21-50)

    It isn’t as if Shakespeare invented loneliness, as brilliantly as he narrated its emerging force in the modern era. Think again of Cordelia and her dad, and imagine some words that might describe their common plight.Exiled, untouched, ignored, isolated, desolated, alienated, outcast, denied, lost, mad. Is it too much to claim that this list of words summarizes something important about all of us? Each one of us confronts an interminable ocean, a place untouchable by others, a language that sounds to us like a scream in the night. We imagine that to be alone is the worst we can...

  6. Chapter II Having
    (pp. 51-90)

    To be lonely is to be without recourse to others. Yet we wander through life in the presence of other people. How can we be in the presence of others without connecting to them? What kind of experience is it to be with others without communion, connection, or conversation? Hannah Arendt used the termbehaviorto characterize such a way of being in the world. The behavioral self is one whose experience of life is habitual, who responds to the world in conformist terms, who is notacting, ormaking, but at bestlaboring. Such a self is diminished in...

  7. Chapter III Loving
    (pp. 91-126)

    Cordelia calculates, divides her love. Paradoxically, she does so in order to provide for her father carefully measured, sincere words of love, all the love a child may give to a father and still remain herself.

    But there is more to Cordelia’s calculus than finding a way to express love for her father. Cordelia’s words are measured in part because she has suffered the loss of her mother. To begin with the problem of the missing mother is, to parody Freud, to begin an analysis that is destined to be interminable. However, this fact does not suggest that we can...

  8. Chapter IV Grieving
    (pp. 127-170)

    In the spring of 1999, after a variety of tests and a first operation, my wife was diagnosed as suffering from a rare and terminal form of lung cancer called pleural mesothelioma. Subsequent experimental surgery that removed more of her insides than we thought possible, coupled with six months of the most intensive and hence brutal chemotherapy and radiation treatment available, extended her life for four and a half years. And we lived for a while as self-conscious exemplars of Kurt Vonnegut’s “nation of two,” bound closely together in the light of death’s presence, constantly mindful of the impending event...

  9. Epilogue: Writing
    (pp. 171-180)

    In June of 2005 my older brother persuaded me to meet him in Africa, where he was visiting the national offices and other operations in Ethiopia and Kenya for the non-governmental organization he directed. I had just completed my teaching for the academic year and was at the beginning of a year-long sabbatical. I still was grieving the loss of my wife almost two years earlier, and I know my brother thought that the trip might be a good way to distract me, to jar me out of my melancholy. I too thought such a journey could be a good...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 181-186)
  11. Index
    (pp. 187-193)