The Key to Blissful Loneliness

One of the most intriguing concepts I have learned about human psychology is that every human emotion has a natural purpose in certain scenarios. Fear tells us to run away from dangerous predators, Sadness tells us to make changes to our lives or strategies in order to continue despite a loss, Anger tells us to prepare for an attack and Surprise tells us to open our eyes and ears really wide so that we can figure out what the hell is happening. This is a rather rudimentary idea, but I still find it very interesting.

All base emotions were developed before society and as the limbic system(emotion part of the brain) is the brain stem, all modern-day rational behaviour was built on top of that. Jealousy developed as a means of motivating people to win over the competition(fairly or otherwise) and Lust developed as well, it should be obvious.

But up until recently, I was a bit divided as to why loneliness is met with depression. I originally thought that it could be either an in-built incentive to keep people socially exchanging ideas and emotional expressions(in order to remain in the loop and somewhat enlightened), or a means of encouraging people to be compatible with the people around them. I now have a completely different theory and I’m quite sure this one is more relevant.

How loneliness typically feels:

When loneliness is met with depression and almost forced rumination, it makes the loner feel hopeless, helpless, empty, worthless and dissatisfied with life. Depressed people also have trouble enjoying what they usually enjoy and can make them feel guilty.

When somebody fails to connect with other people or relate with other people intimately, it can be seen by that person as a reflection of worthlessness. Whether it be worthless genetics(ugliness, baldness, obesity etc.), a deficit of social grace(awkwardness) or simply a failure to emotionally connect with other people. Either way, being conscious of this can lead to the previously mentioned feelings and because most of the aforementioned skills and attributes develop from either genetics or childhood(read “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman if you don’t believe me) it can also make the loner feel helpless.

Why these feelings exist as a result:

One thing that led me to ask this question is, why do our primitive selves care about these capabilities. Although it obvious that being alone it makes us feel these ways, it isn’t quite obvious why these feelings exist.

I’ve got it. Lacking these capabilities is met with the natural notion of being an evolutionary dead-end. This notion would have come into existence back when civilisation was just starting up. During this period of time, the only way anyone could pass on their legacy or influence, was by having a blood-line. Ergo, if you repeatedly failed at finding a mate, than you would have become depressed.

Loners feel; worthless for being 2nd class and guilty for occupying space and resources that evolution never intended for them to have. Loners feel hopeless for not being able to pass their influence on through time, but more importantly, loners feel that their emotional selves will never be expressed and embraced.

The key to blissful loneliness:

During civilisation’s humble beginnings, living a life without having children or falling in love would be a pointless life that the world would not care about or respond to. But in modern society there are far more numerous ways to influence the world. Whether the legacy you want to leave behind is an expression of your character or an ideology that you fervently believe in, is all up to you.

If you are longing to let someone close enough to know who you really are and empathize with you, know who you are inside, then instead make something that expresses your feelings and portrays your emotive character. Maybe even an artwork that portrays the feeling of loneliness itself, like some artists have done in the past(eg. Celldweller’s lyrics or The Company of Myself game).

If you want someone to care for and appreciate you, but have trouble getting that close to somebody, then make a significant change to the world for the better. People will remember you for years to come. There are scientists, engineers, artists, athletes etc. that are remembered for decades after they die. That’s not the same as someone caring about you, but try to think what I uncovered and you may be able to alleviate those feelings.

The first option is best for the loners that are lonely due to a lack of social grace or emotional expression. The second option is best for the loners that are alone due to factors like ugliness, insensitivity, addiction problems or anything really. Which ever you choose, just take in mind that depression is completely demotivating. Though if you take in mind what I said then you may be able to transcend the link between solitude and sadness.

Hedonism and Meaning

In many elitist circles, people tend to classify what is art and what is not. Most of the time in these circles, the conclusion is drawn that anything made for the expressed purpose of either stimulating feelings of adrenaline or sexual arousing the viewer is not art, because these feelings usually do not produce memorable experiences. The genres they are referring to have derogatory terms; pulp-horror, dumb-action, torture-porn.

I must admit I’m not fond of this hedonistic entertainment either, but not for the same reasons. When a fictional experience is designed solely as an emotion-driven experience, the narration of the story takes higher priority than the story itself. This usually results in the story becoming unbelievable, over-dramatized or stretched. I’m not saying that these kinds of works are bad, I’m just saying that it is not my cup of tea. Whereas these elitists wouldn’t even recognize it as tea at all.

I have noticed that this phenomena doesn’t just pertain to dumb-action, it occurs in almost any genre, regardless of which emotion it prescribes. Whether it be happiness, love, sadness, anger or even nostalgia, the over-abundance of such emotions usually leads to stories without meaning, stories that aren’t believable or shallow stories that don’t discuss themes thoroughly. For example; soap operas like Neighbours, fantasy romance books like Twilight or overstretched dramas like Lost.

Unfortunately, there are also consequences when the story is written without intent for effect. Although these stories can enlighten the audience with a thorough and in-depth discussion, the emotional value of these stories are not as high and can be less holistic. Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic seems to be written for believability and contemplation. The individual contexts that are in the game are very well constructed. Each planet has its own unique social, political and economic virtues, as well as some intriguing conflicts as a result. But Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic is also quite dry at times and most of the dialogues are plain information dumps. This is probably intended to suit the Jedi ideal of emotional neutrality and self-control.

A truly great story needs to have symbiotic balance between story mechanics and narrative effect. Mass Effect 2 does so quite masterfully (except for its combat game-play). The story/strategy structure of Mass Effect 2 is designed in a way that facilitates intellectual contemplation and emotional involvement. Here is a flowchart that sums up the story:

The synopsis of Mass Effect 2.

Blue indicates the general strategy from the perspective of a robot. Black is the story in relation to the long-term strategy. And Red is the emotional effect of the story and strategy. Not only is Mass Effect 2‘s emotive impact holistically considered and realized, but the storyline is quite believable and the economic decisions made by the player make sense from a robot’s perspective. As far as I am concerned that’s a recipe for a damn good dramatic game.

Mass Effect 2 isn’t the only game containing this kind of structure. Beyond Good and Evil has a very similiar structure:

The synopsis of Beyond Good and Evil.