BEING AND BELONGING
I am alone.
I always have been alone.
This aloneness is different.
Ultimately it is the state we all are in all of the time. Consciousness is isolated inside our biological bodies. I have friends who would argue that our core essence can travel beyond our bodies, but for most people, this is not how the world is viewed.
All of my siblings, my four brothers, are dead. My parents are dead. The person I considered a best friend when I was young, and such considerations were more important than anything else in the world, died when she was 21.
I try not to dwell on these facts, but I probably think about this sort of thing more than most people. I try not to bemoan my situation, as I did not lose my family in a single violent event. They are all gone none-the-less.
I am not sure what the word for this state of being is. I have a marriage and a child. Both are in their mid-20s. I am not without family or love. But the family of my birth is gone. Orphan implies that I lost my parents when I was a child. So that is not the right word to describe my state of being and it does not address the lack of siblings. If I speak of the family of my birth it sounds like I was adopted. And I was not adopted. But my natal family is gone.
There are times I feel as though I am not alone in the universe and that the presence of the universe itself is with me. The feeling comes from where synchronicity bubbles up and nudges at me. Such an event happened last evening.
As I wrote the above words about being alone last evening, I decided to mend some fences and build a stile to access the separate fields of inquiry where my husband and I spend our time. He likes to go to the movies. I saw that a film, Mr Holmes, I thought we would both want to watch, enjoy might be too upbeat a term, was showing at a local Indy cinema, The Loft.
I knew little of the film other than having heard it was quite good, and that I wanted to see Ian McKellan portray a non-wizardly character. It was excellent, thought-producing, and, to me, relevant.
Synchronicity seemed to dance through my brain as I watched the film develop the very interplay of ideas that I had begun writing about earlier in the day: aging and how the process elucidates the existential aloneness which intensifies through time as peers, and those we know, disappear.
The past exists only in memories and when there is no one who shares your memories, how can an event be validated? Holmes, age 93, grappled with senility and the forgetting of the details of the case from decades ago that apparently so shook his belief in his own abilities that he retired from detective work.
Ultimately understanding that facts, while essential to material stories, are nothing without interpretation. The interpretations we choose to share with others often have more significance than any complete inventory of facts.
Two of my own brothers, the two who passed away this past year, both suffered from dementia or senility. I have thought a great deal about what they knew and chose to share or not and literally take to the grave with them. The metaphor of wasps of who attack and live on versus bees that give all for the colony in Mr. Holmes gave me a new frame for contemplating my brothers’ actions and my own.
This timeless existential pondering of communication and community coexists with the loneness that is the essential state of being. Self-sacrifice for the good of the community theme entwines the characters through the apiary sub-plot and I cannot help but think of how material concerns, facts, isolated one brother who suffered greatly, and how another brother who was most concerned with love was happy.
Infinite permutations of the Mr. Holmes story exist in life, but I am content to irrationally take comfort from the synchronicity of choosing to see this film as I began to write about losing my last sibling during a visit to the city and region of the midwest in which he lived. Does this logically mean anything? But it has meaning for me.
My father retired from medicine for the same reasons. As you know, I’m a big believer in “no coincidences” and that consciousness resides outside the brain. Your observations about your two brothers fascinate me.
Thanks Carol. I would love to hear more about your father.
I do believe in synchronicity. I’m sorry you have lost your natal family but I suppose you truly feel your blessings with your husband and child in this situation.
Absolutely blessed with my “did it myself” family. Being without any family would set me adrift in a way I am not sure I would want to explore.
I understand this aloneness and grappling for what to call it and to find meaning, if any exists, in it all. I had a conversation with a friend recently who just lost her last parent and has no relationship with a living sibling. We talked about that crazy loss of safety net or something feeling — one words just don’t do justice.
I must see this movie — thank you for bring it to my attention!
Ruth, you absolutely have to see this film. Excellent, excellent, excellent bit of cinematic story-telling. And the bonus of the main character being Holmes and revolving around deduction and memory make it essential watching for you!
Tam Warner Minton
I have cousins and my brother left…and it is hard to imagine being without them. I never thought about it before, really. It makes me terribly sad.
I never thought it would happen so soon, but with my parents being older, and my brothers being 9 to 17 years my senior, I suppose it was inevitable. But it has given me a perspective that few 50 somethings have, so I write from my boomer perspective on a topic that is not yet foremost on our cohort’s mind. I hope to inform, not sadden. Just cherish every moment with them, as I am sure you do.
Lois Alter Mark
This makes me so sad and I can’t imagine the aloneness you feel after losing your original family. I’m sorry, Nancy, and I hope you feel the love from your husband, child and friends. I really want to see Mr. Holmes. It sounds like a very special and thought-provoking movie.
Thanks Lois. The movie is excellent and it does highlight the most existential concerns of aging aging and memory.