Bring Out Your Dead: The Power of Loneliness

Noah Tysick attended the recent talk given in Indianapolis, IN by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on "Facing Challenges with Compassion and Wisdom". This week, he is the DLC's special guest blogger and will be sharing his personal reflections from the event. Noah is an author, teacher and ordained, interfaith minister with a particular affinity for Tibetan and Pure Land Buddhism.

It has been 26 years since the death of my maternal grandfather, yet my mother admits to “still feel[ing] lonesome for him sometimes.”  He was a tall, willowy man of Native American descent.  Although he never created a vaccine, published a book, or served as a diplomat, his family was his life’s work.  To us, he was and is someone worth missing.

On a less somber scale, loneliness, as it were, is a state of mind we tend to reserve for someone else.  To feel “lonely” is to be weak, aged, or--dare I say--needy.  There is a certain vulnerability or even stigma attached to it:  

        She’s so unattractive, it’s no wonder she’s lonely every Valentine’s day.

        He’d have more friends if he wasn’t so odd.

        Convalescent homes are so depressing--everyone is so starved for attention! 

We wave our proverbial wand of judgment in unkind ways that leave an aftertaste of loathsome pity, and we often take pride in our own emotional self-sufficiency.  

“Trust dissolves suspicion and warms the heart.” - The Dalai Lama (photo by Goran Vrcel © 2010)During his talk at Conseco Field House in Indianapolis, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, spoke of the aliases under which feelings of isolation hide.  Among these, he cited anger, jealously, and mistrust: “The mind is the creator,” he said.  And, a clever creator it can be!  We can be among friends and still feel suspicious that someone is not being authentic.  We can spend hours coloring, embellishing, sprinkling glitter on elaborate paper monsters of our own making; instead, why not drop the formalities--the ‘making pretties’?   

Everything we say does not have to be clever, and everything someone else says does not need to have a subtext or underlying meaning.  But, how do we get to this place?  His Holiness offers the remedy of trust.  During his lecture, he said that “trust dissolves suspicion and warms the heart.”  These are not hollow words; these come from a deep place of experience--of one in exile forced to live like a refugee.  That morning, he unabashedly admitted his own feelings of loneliness at times and the need for affection.  Immediately, I felt 22 again.  I was keeping a secret, sitting in my car between classes at my alma mater, and listening to Lonely Moon by Mark Heard:

        Soon they took everything that he lived for/So he asked them to please take his life too
        They denied him existence but they let him live/In a lonely room. 

I had been chased back into the closet by my religious beliefs and to spare my family any further shame.  I renounced the so-called “homosexual lifestyle” and was engaged to a girl that went to our church.  I was truly alone.  Somebody had lied to me.  Was it my pastor or parents? My god?  Myself?  I knew I had a difficult decision to make.  All of my safety nets were gone, but that was the impetus for me to step out of that moonlit tomb.

Flash forward to May 14, 2010.  I sat between a close colleague and friend and my partner of seven years watching the Dalai Lama.  Without the loneliness of my youth, I would have never ended up in this time and place--this sunlit, glorious place.


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