Now that song is going to be stuck in my head all day. I took a photo this spring, in one of the conservancy prairies around Dayton OH, and looking at the final edits got me thinking. Not about the song. No, I was thinking about loneliness, and friendship, and the connections every human needs to function.
Man was not meant to be alone. It’s not just a biological imperative: we must have man and woman to replenish the species. It’s one that has been understood since time immemorial. It’s not about sex. Sex could be, as it is with most of the animal kingdom, wham bam hippity hoppity woo you next spring. If that gentle.
It’s about love. Now, I know that love in the full sense of the word had been co-opted by the modern interpretations that mostly mean lust and incoherent couplings that result in children no one loves. Or it has been diluted to ‘I love my coffee,’ or ‘I love that new hat of yours.’ Which are both nice sentiments, but have no depth.
In reading a collection of the excellent Thomas Sowell’s essays (and I assure you there is much to love here, with depth of feeling, but they will prick your soul if you come to them tenderly) I was not expecting to come to a culmination of my thoughts recently on loneliness and social isolation. It’s not about sex, despite the modern day perception of intimacy. It was never about sex. Human need other humans, for intercourse of the mind, not mere copulation.
We all have a lonely birdhouse in our soul. Even the most introverted and misanthropic of us love someone. The feathered warmth of friendship and hope fills that birdhouse. Some people have a bluebird house, like the one in my photo. Bluebirds require a large (relatively) distance between their houses. Other birds will nest in happy chattering masses, like swallows filling up a mud bank and looking nothing so much as like an apartment complex. Some birds will only deign to nest if the opening is a precise dimension, and the interior is just to their instinctive desires.
Other birds are like sparrows, that will nest anywhere and everywhere with gay abandon. Humans make friends like this, love like this: some are distant and particular. Others spill love out everywhere in a joyful mess. Love is a connection of the souls. We go to live in each other’s birdhouses. And that connection, in turn, drives what we call society.
We love, and that drives a sense of duty. Sowell touches on it in the essay I am quoting. We take care of one another in a social sense because we have a duty toward our fellow man. If there is no love, there is no courtesy, no sense of shame which curtails crimes: murder, littering, wanton destruction of property willfully disregarding those that are hurt by the acts. There are more of those who would be civil, but the barbarians rise up and overwhelm them because they do not care.
Love one another. When love fails, all manner of evils arise. Life becomes a gaud signifying nothing. We cannot love those we have no connections with. We can form connections, even remotely, although they have the danger of being tenuous and falsifiable.
Which is why social isolation, and the accompanying loneliness, eats at our soul. The birdhouses are empty and barren. Because a birdhouse is more than just shelter from the storm to a bird. It is a home, where the next generation is carefully nurtured until they are ready to spread their wings and fly. They will go on to other people and love them. The fewer homes for love there are, the faster our society crumbles away. Friendship is difficult. Love leaves you vulnerable. The rewards are vast.
Take risks. Pull the mask away and show your true self. Explore the breadth and depth of loving your fellow man, and discover warmth and hope. Love is so much more than simply sex. Happiness is loving and being loved in return.