Writing about open & equitable product development

Against Loneliness

A companion-piece for our Kickstarter's first update.

At Spicy Lobster studio there are very few things we consider ourselves against. If forced to imagine a sworn enemy, what comes to mind is loneliness. I touched on the subject last year in a longform message on our team chat: Musings on death and loneliness.

my mother never really left. Her body is gone, but her embodiment of kindness is forever in the hearts and minds of anyone lucky enough to have been a recipient of her love. As one of her children I received it in abundance.

This community I am co-creating with all of you fine people is deeply informed by the practice of kindness passed down to me by my mother, which she imparted through actions more so than words. Simple acts of kindness speak volumes. The ceaseless current of kindness connects us together, making us less alone.

What we are battling against is the unnecessary kind of loneliness. Quiet solitude can be nourishing, but the deafening void of separateness is a killer. The poet David Whyte describes this duality beautifully.

is the doorway to unspecified desire. In the bodily pain of aloneness is the first step to understanding how far we are from a real friendship, from a proper work or a long sought love. Loneliness can be a prison, a place from which we look out at a world we cannot inhabit; loneliness can be a bodily ache and a penance, but loneliness fully inhabited also becomes the voice that asks and calls for that great, unknown someone or something else we want to call our own.

Loneliness is the very state that births the courage to continue calling, and when fully lived can undergo its own beautiful reversal, becoming in its consummation, the far horizon that answers back.

In the grand scale of things, loneliness is a privilege. Human beings may have the ability to feel aloneness as no other creature can; with a power magnified by intelligence and imagination. Animals may feel alone in an instinctual way, moving naturally and affectionately toward others of their kind, but human beings may be the only beings that can articulate, imagine or call for a specific life they feel they might be missing.

Loneliness is the substrate and foundation of belonging, the gravitational field that draws us home and in the beautiful essence of its isolation, the hand reaching out for togetherness. To allow ourselves to feel fully alone is to allow ourselves to understand the particular nature of our solitary incarnation, to make aloneness a friend is to apprentice ourselves to the foundation from which we make our invitation to others.

To feel alone is to face the truth of our irremediable and unutterable singularity, but a singularity that can kiss, create a conversation, make a vow or forge a shared life. In the world, or community, this essential singularity joins with others through vision, intellect and ideas to make a society.

Loneliness is not a concept, it is the body constellating, attempting to become proximate and even join with other bodies, through physical touch, through conversation or the mediation of the intellect and the imagination. Loneliness is the place from which we pay real attention to voices other than our own; being alone allows us to find the healing power in the other. The shortest line in the briefest e-mail can heal, embolden, welcome home and enliven the most isolated identity.

Lonely human beings are lonely exactly because they are made to belong. Loneliness is the single malt taste of the very essentiality that makes conscious belonging possible. The doorway is closer than we think.

I am alone; therefore I belong.

‘LONELINESS’ from CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. © David Whyte & Many Rivers Press

Everyone craves human connection, now more than ever. We may be alone in our minds, but there is belonging to be found in being alone together. To survive we need to find the others and become proximate with them. For that we need a common meeting ground founded in mutual good-faith.

The world of Fish Folk is being created to provide such a place. A place where we hold off on connecting with our words and just play together like the primal apes (or pre-primate fish) that we are.

Non-verbal play is an arguably safer starting point for social connection than literate conversation, at least given our current communication tools which are designed for outrage rather than understanding.

Our literal reality, shaped by words, has grown so complex and contested that the meanings of words can be interpreted very differently by two or more people, to such an extent that physical neighbors can seem to live on different planets.

Too many words only sow confusion when their meanings become fragmented. We need our words, but they do us no good once they diverge too far from a common, universal interpretation.

To attain a shared vocabulary as human beings the conversation must be started anew, from the first-principles of playful interbeing. In time we’ll exchange words in ever greater quantities. But first, let’s just play together.

Perhaps all the literacy we need to begin with are these five magic words:

👋 Hi,
😊 wanna play a game?