War is stupid, horrific, ugly, and never solves anything. Look at how many “Freedom Fighters” the West has created since it attacked the Middle East for no valid reason whatsoever. Coming soon near us all? After all, karma is a universal law just like gravity…
Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, has seen the brunt and, likely, the most devastation of any city in the country. The civil war has gone on for years and much of the city has been ruined.
These images show the beauty and serenity of a world in peace, juxtaposed with the result of mindless warfare.
Keep in mind, if we don’t do something about this, it could be your city next. Drone bombs don’t stop for border checks. Get out there and raise awareness; stop the violence and let us come together for our future’s sake.
(NaturalNews) The development of complex life forms on other planets may be nearly inevitable once the basics of life itself are present, according to a new study.
A group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Washington State University have concluded that the universe may resemble a “cosmic zoo” filled with plants and animals that bear at least some resemblance to those on earth, although they may have different anatomies and chemical makeup.
The researchers believe that once the origins of life are present, evolution would follow a natural path that eventually – given enough time and the right conditions – could lead to the transition from simple life forms to complex, and even intelligent beings, such as those found on our own planet.
Based on observation of the processes that gave rise to complex life on Earth, the researchers attempted to predict how easily these processes might occur on other planets where life has originated.
Their research indicated that the transition from single-celled organisms to complex life forms would likely occur on any planet where basic life already exists, but that these planets could be quite rare.
WSU astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch said:
“If the origin of life can occur rather easily, a percentage of organisms on other worlds will reach higher levels of animal- or plant-like complexity.
“On the other hand, if the origin of life is a rare event, then chances are we live in a rather empty universe.”
‘Key innovations’ drove development of life on Earth
The researchers made no attempt to predict how common planets supporting life actually are, but focused instead on how likely it might be that complex life would evolve on those where the origins of life had already occurred.
They looked at “key innovations” that occurred on Earth which drove the evolutionary process.
From the Daily Mail:
“The researchers examined the key innovations that drove the development of life on Earth, including the transition from single cell life to multicellular life, the rise of photosynthesis, the evolution of macroscopic beings, and the rise of intelligent life.”
These key innovations have occurred independently several times on Earth, suggesting that given the right conditions and enough time, the transition of simple to complex life is likely, and would follow a natural course.
For example, the development of photosynthesis has occurred independently four times in the Earth’s history, and multicellular organisms have also arisen independently among different branches of the tree of life.
This is evidence that similar processes would occur elsewhere, according to the researchers. “Therefore, in any world where life has arisen and sufficient energy flux exists, we are confident that we will find complex, animal-like life,” said Schulze-Makuch.
However, the development of human- or animal-like life might still be the exception, statistically speaking, just as here on Earth where simple organisms still greatly outnumber complex ones.
Debunking the Star Trek fallacy
In their paper, the team rejects the Star Trek Fallacy “that it is inevitable that complex, intelligent aliens will all have pentadactyl limbs, circular irises and male-restricted facial hair.”
In other words, any complex animal-like beings are likely to be quite different to us, physically speaking. The researchers also found little evidence of likely paths to “technological intelligence,” since humans are the only species on earth with that capability.
The researchers hope that their findings might aid in the search for intelligent life in the universe. Schulze-Makuch believes that SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) efforts should include the development and use of tools that can detect a range of signatures determining life – from microbial to complex forms.
The use of instruments that can detect the “red edge” of vegetation (the red edge is the wavelength of light associated with plant life), for instance, would be useful in the search for complex life elsewhere, said Schulze-Makuch.
(NaturalNews) Just one year ago, Detroit area oncologist Farid Fata, M.D., was sentenced to nearly half a century in federal prison for bombarding and killing healthy patients with massive doses of chemotherapy, and for defrauding Medicare and insurance companies of more than $30,000,000. The insidious and deranged cancer doctor pleaded guilty to 13 counts of healthcare fraud as well as conspiracy, naming in court more than a handful of his co-conspirators – other fraudsters whose names have yet to be released, except to prosecuting attorneys for ongoing investigations.
Although Fata’s healthcare scheme is the biggest and most insidious ever recorded in U.S. history, thus far, Fata is the only one who has been charged. How can that be, when he confessed to conspiracy. Last time we looked, by definition, conspiring involves more than one person. How long will Michigan and Detroit officials let other chemo-fraudsters dose healthy people before putting a stop to the multi-location racket that’s ongoing at the cancer industrial complex known as Karmanos?
All treatments at Barbara Ann Karmanos Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine should be halted until investigations are conducted
Over the course of nine long years, Fata essentially killed over 500 people with his “European Protocol” – a completely self-fabricated overdose of chemotherapy he administered to healthy people in order to become rich and powerful, according to his own testimony, as he confessed in court. This included overdosing people even during their last days of life. Using aggressive intravenous treatments, Fata jacked up his billings and fraudulent claims to Medicare and insurance companies, solicited kickbacks from hospice centers for referrals of patients, and used those proceeds to administer more unnecessary and expensive PET scans (positron emission tomography) that he billed to private insurers.
Testimony from victims verifies all of this published, well-documented testimony. Fata was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Michigan, who now hold the names of Fata’s co-conspirators! Who are they? Doesn’t the public have the right to know, now, before they too get dosed with toxic chemotherapy for cancers that they may not even have? How long will it take to release these names and halt the horrors?
This diabolical medical racket must be stopped. We are witnessing unprecedented false cancer diagnoses combined with unnecessary deadly chemotherapy for millions in profit, and it’s ongoing. Is the deranged Dr. David H. Gorski one of the named co-conspirators? David Gorski, a.k.a. “Orac,” is the most insane blogger on the planet, the same multi-personality who despises natural medicine and goes on medical discussion chat boards to impersonate disease-injured families so that people will stop second-guessing chemotherapy, toxic vaccines and experimental pharmaceuticals for autism and breast cancer.
Why is Dr. David H. Gorski, Fata’s cohort, still licensed to bombard his healthy patients with mass doses of chemotherapy at Karmanos Cancer Center?
Now the Fata scandal deepens. In fact, Karmanos cancer surgeon Dr. David Gorski has been linked to ‘skeptics’ kingpin James Randi, a long-time amateur magician, who was caught on tape soliciting sexual favors from an underage boy.
Gorski may well be schizophrenic, considering all of the insane 20,000 word rants he posts online daily, blasting natural medicine and pushing his own propaganda about chemotherapy and vaccines, using secret code words, multiple identities and encouraging others to do the same. Gorski still thinks nobody knows he is “Orac” and “Respectful Insolence,” and he sets up phony email accounts and dozens of Twitter accounts so that he can abuse other people without being traced.
When will the CDC, the FTC, the AMA, the state medical board and Michigan officials stop this mad man and others like him from practicing medicine and possibly murdering innocents, like Farid Fata did for nearly a decade? Stay tuned, and stay away from the Karmanos Cancer Industrial Complex, until we all know the truth! Meanwhile, look into natural remedies for cancer that have zero side effects.
When odd, skull-shaped grave items were found by archaeologists decades ago at an Aztec temple in Mexico, they were assumed to be mere toys or ornaments, and were catalogued and stored in warehouses. However, years later, experts discovered they were creepy ‘death whistles’ that made piercing noises resembling a human scream, which the ancient Aztecs may have used during ceremonies, sacrifices, or during battles to strike fear into their enemies.
Quijas Yxayotl, a musician who plays an array of traditional Mexican Indian Civilizations instruments, demonstrates an Aztec death whistle.
Two skull-shaped, hollow whistles were found 20 years ago at the temple of the wind god Ehecatl, in the hands of a sacrificed male skeleton. When the whistles were finally blown, the sounds created were described as terrifying. The whistles make the sounds of “humans howling in pain, spooky gusts of whistling wind or the ‘scream of a thousand corpses” writes MailOnline.
Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god, combined with the attributes of Ehecatl, deity of the wind. The wind instruments may have been linked with this god. Gwendal Uguen/Flickr
Roberto Velázquez Cabrera, a mechanical engineer and founder of the Mexico-based Instituto Virtual de Investigación Tlapitzcalzin, has spent years recreating the instruments of the pre-Columbians to examine the sounds they make. He writes in MexicoLore that the death whistle in particular was not a common instrument, and was possibly reserved for sacrifices – blown just before a victim was killed in order to guide souls to the afterlife- or for use in battle.
“Some historians believe that the Aztecs used to sound the death whistle in order to help the deceased journey into the underworld. Tribes are said to have used the terrifying sounds as psychological warfare, to frighten enemies at the start of battle,” explains Oddity Central. If the whistle was used during battles, the psychological effect on an enemy of a hundred death whistles screaming in unison might have been great, unhinging and undermining their resolve.
Illustration of Aztec Warriors as found in the Codex Mendoza. Public Domain
‘He would break everything around him’: Family detail Nice attacker’s mental health issues.”
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had a long history of violence and mental illness, his family back in his homeland of Tunisia said, while insisting he showed no obvious signs of radicalization prior to Thursday’s attack that left at least 84 people dead.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had a long history of violence and mental illness, his family back in his homeland of Tunisia said, while insisting he showed no obvious signs of radicalization prior to Thursday’s attack that left at least 84 people dead.
“My brother had psychological problems, and we have given the police documents showing that he had been seeing psychologists for several years,” Rabeb Bouhlel, his sister, told Reuters.
The 31-year-old Lahouaiej Bouhlel left Tunisia for France back in 2005, and did not keep in regular contact with his family, who live in modest accommodations in the village Msaken outside Sousse, a coastal resort that has also been targeted by an Islamist attack.
“From 2002 to 2004 he had problems that led to a nervous breakdown,” his father Mohamed Mondher Lahouaiej Bouhlel told several French channels in an interview outside his home, while brandishing his son’s clinical evaluations before the cameras.
“He’d get angry and shout and break everything around him. He was violent and very ill. We took him to the doctor and he was put on drugs. Whenever there was a crisis, we took him back again. He was always alone. Always silent, refusing to talk. Even in the street, he wouldn’t greet people.”
According to his father, after moving to France, Lahouaiej Bouhlel had “no connection with religion. He didn’t fast or keep Ramadan. He drank. He even took drugs.”
In what may not be a coincidence, the men responsible for the Paris attacks last November also had a similar history of dead-end jobs, petty crime, drinking, and gambling, before apparently rapidly converting to the Islamist cause just months before their deaths.
Although he last saw his family in Tunisia in 2012 when he traveled back for his sister’s wedding, in recent weeks Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s behavior radically changed.
“Over the past month, he was calling us every day and he sent us money… He called several times a day,” explained Rebab.
His brother Jaber Bouhlel told the Daily Mail that the family received 240,000 Tunisian dinar (almost $110,000) from Mohamed in the past few weeks – a surprisingly large sum for a low-paid deliveryman.
“He used to send us small sums of money regularly like most Tunisians working abroad. But then he sent us all that money, it was fortune. He sent the money illegally. He gave cash to people he knew who were returning to our village and asked them to give it to the family,” said Jaber.
Ibrahim Bouhlel, a nephew, said that Mohamed even promised to travel back to Tunisia for a family party this week.
However, the next time his family saw him was in pictures in the news.
“We’re all in a state of shock at what’s happened,” said his father.
In a TV interview on Friday night, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that Lahouaiej Bouhlel “was likely a terrorist,” but police had not yet figured out if he had received financial support and training from Islamist organizations, or had simply subscribed to the ideology.
When you attempt to envision a writer, I imagine many of you see a quirky recluse, hunched over a desk in some cabin, crumpled paper strewn about as they obsessively work on the next great American novel. But writing is so much more.
Prose is thought put to page, which makes all of us writers—even if we don’t have the chops to tangle with Faulkner. In most cases, writing is most useful as a tool for thinking, expression, and creativity; cabin-dwelling novelists be damned.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of making writing a regular habit.
The Therapeutic Aspects of Writing
Much of the research on writing and happiness deals with “expressive writing,” or jotting down what you think and how you feel. Even blogging “undoubtedly affords similar benefits” to private expressive writing in terms of therapeutic value.
Expressive writing has also been linked to improved mood, well-being, and reduced stress levels for those who do it regularly, says Adam Grant:
“Research by Laura King shows that writing about achieving future goals and dreams can make people happier and healthier… And Jane Dutton and I found that when people doing stressful fundraising jobs kept a journal for a few days about how their work made a difference, they increased their hourly effort by 29% over the next two weeks.”
Moreover, laziness with words creates difficulty in describing feelings, sharing experiences, and communicating with others. Being able to flesh out thoughts in your mind only to have them come stumbling out when you speak is supremely frustrating. Fortunately, regular writing seems to offer some reprieve.
In both emotional intelligence and in hard sciences like mathematics, writing has been shown to help people communicate highly complex ideas more effectively. Writing helps eliminate “it sounded good in my head” by forcing your hand; brains forgive fuzzy abstractions, prose does not.
Writing Can Help You Handle Hard Times
In one study that followed recently fired engineers, the researchers found that those engineers who consistently engaged with expressive writing were able to find another job faster. Says Adam Grant:
“The engineers who wrote down their thoughts and feelings about losing their jobs reported feeling less anger and hostility toward their former employer. They also reported drinking less. Eight months later, less than 19% of the engineers in the control groups were reemployed full-time, compared with more than 52% of the engineers in the expressive writing group.”
According to an older study, writing about traumatic events actually made the participants more depressed, until about 6 months later, when the emotional benefits started to stick.
One participant noted, “Although I have not talked with anyone about what I wrote, I was finally able to deal with it, work through the pain instead of trying to block it out. Now it doesn’t hurt to think about it.”
US and Israeli military and intelligence agencies were involved in launching the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, says an American scholar and a retired professor in Madison, Wisconsin.
“9/11 was in fact an orchestrated event that was brought to us compliments of the CIA, the neocons (neoconservatives) in the Department of Defense and Mossad,” said James Henry Fetzer, founder of the Scholars for 9/11 Truth.
Their “objective was to transform American foreign policy from one in which, at least officially, we never attacked any nation that had not attacked us first, to one in which we became an aggressor nation, launching attacks to destabilize seven governments in next five years,” Fetzer told Press TV on Friday.
On Friday, the US Congress released 28 pages of a congressional report on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which show the Saudi government may have had a hand in the attacks.
The previously classified 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry report also hints at Saudi Arabia’s support for terrorist activities in the US and other countries, but fails to show its extent.
“According to various FBI documents and CIA memorandum, some of the September 11 hijackers, while in the United States, apparently had contacts with individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government,” the report said.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has welcomed the release of the pages, saying there is no proof of Saudi involvement in the attacks.
US President Barack Obama, under pressure from Congress and the public, announced in April that the 28 pages, which have been kept secret since 2002, would be declassified soon.
The September, 11, 2001 attacks, also known as the 9/11 attacks, were a series of strikes in the US which killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage.
US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda terrorists but many experts have raised questions about the official account.
They believe that rogue elements within the US government orchestrated or at least encouraged the 9/11 attacks in order to accelerate the US war machine and advance the Zionist agenda.
STOP THE TPP! Tell Prime Minister Justin Trudeau you expect his majority government to act in the interest of Canadians, not transnational corporations, and REJECT the TPP:http://pm.gc.ca/eng/contactpm
Can you effen believe this? From one of the richest nations on the planet? Come on Canada, we can do better.
CANADIAN CHILDREN ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY POOR
14.6 % of Canadians live in poverty, but 19.0 % of Canadian CHILDREN live in poverty. Children are heavily OVER-REPRESENTED in Canada’s poverty statistics. The rate of child poverty exceeds the rate of poverty in the general population IN EVERY PROVINCE. When will Canadians call on governments to address the unacknowledged crisis of child poverty in our midst?
“Loneliness is personal, and it is also political. Loneliness is collective… We are in this together, this accumulation of scars… What matters is kindness; what matters is solidarity.”
“You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love,” artist Louise Bourgeoise wrote in her diary at the end of a long and illustrious life as she contemplated how solitude enriches creative work. It’s a lovely sentiment, but as empowering as it may be to those willing to embrace solitude, it can be tremendously lonesome-making to those for whom loneliness has contracted the space of trust and love into a suffocating penitentiary. For if in solitude, as Wendell Berry memorably wrote, “one’s inner voices become audible [and] one responds more clearly to other lives,” in loneliness one’s inner scream becomes deafening, deadening, severing any thread of connection to other lives.
How to break free of that prison and reinhabit the space of trust and love is what Olivia Laing explores in The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (public library) — an extraordinary more-than-memoir; a sort of memoir-plus-plus, partway between Helen MacDonald’s H Is for Hawk and the diary of Virginia Woolf; a lyrical account of wading through a period of self-expatriation, both physical and psychological, in which Laing paints an intimate portrait of loneliness as “a populated place: a city in itself.”
After the sudden collapse of a romance marked by extreme elation, Laing left her native England and took her shattered heart to New York, “that teeming island of gneiss and concrete and glass.” The daily, bone-deep loneliness she experienced there was both paralyzing in its all-consuming potency and, paradoxically, a strange invitation to aliveness. Indeed, her choice to leave home and wander a foreign city is itself a rich metaphor for the paradoxical nature of loneliness, animated by equal parts restlessness and stupor, capable of turning one into a voluntary vagabond and a catatonic recluse all at once, yet somehow a vitalizing laboratory for self-discovery. The pit of loneliness, she found, could “drive one to consider some of the larger questions of what it is to be alive.”
There were things that burned away at me, not only as a private individual, but also as a citizen of our century, our pixelated age. What does it mean to be lonely? How do we live, if we’re not intimately engaged with another human being? How do we connect with other people, particularly if we don’t find speaking easy? Is sex a cure for loneliness, and if it is, what happens if our body or sexuality is considered deviant or damaged, if we are ill or unblessed with beauty? And is technology helping with these things? Does it draw us closer together, or trap us behind screens?
Bedeviled by this acute emotional anguish, Laing seeks consolation in the great patron saints of loneliness in twentieth-century creative culture. From this eclectic tribe of the lonesome — including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Hujar, Billie Holiday, and Nan Goldin — Laing chooses four artists as her companions charting the terra incognita of loneliness: Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Henry Darger, and David Wojnarowicz, who had all “grappled in their lives as well as work with loneliness and its attendant issues.”
She considers, for instance, Warhol — an artist whom Laing had always dismissed until the was submerged in loneliness herself. (“I’d seen the screen-printed cows and Chairman Maos a thousand times, and I thought they were vacuous and empty, disregarding them as we often do with things we’ve looked at but failed properly to see.”) She writes:
Warhol’s art patrols the space between people, conducting a grand philosophical investigation into closeness and distance, intimacy and estrangement. Like many lonely people, he was an inveterate hoarder, making and surrounding himself with objects, barriers against the demands of human intimacy. Terrified of physical contact, he rarely left the house without an armoury of cameras and tape recorders, using them to broker and buffer interactions: behaviour that has light to shed on how we deploy technology in our own century of so-called connectivity.
Woven into the fabric of Laing’s personal experience are inquiries into the nature, context, and background of these four artists’ lives and their works most preoccupied with loneliness. But just as it would be unfair to call Laing’s masterpiece only a “memoir,” it would be unfair to call these threads “art history,” for they are rather the opposite, a kind of “art present” — elegant and erudite meditations on how art is present with us, how it invites us to be present with ourselves and bears witness to that presence, alleviating our loneliness in the process.
Laing examines the particular, pervasive form of loneliness in the eye of a city aswirl with humanity:
Imagine standing by a window at night, on the sixth or seventeenth or forty-third floor of a building. The city reveals itself as a set of cells, a hundred thousand windows, some darkened and some flooded with green or white or golden light. Inside, strangers swim to and fro, attending to the business of their private hours. You can see them, but you can’t reach them, and so this commonplace urban phenomenon, available in any city of the world on any night, conveys to even the most social a tremor of loneliness, its uneasy combination of separation and exposure.
You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavour to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people. One might think this state was antithetical to urban living, to the massed presence of other human beings, and yet mere physical proximity is not enough to dispel a sense of internal isolation. It’s possible – easy, even – to feel desolate and unfrequented in oneself while living cheek by jowl with others. Cities can be lonely places, and in admitting this we see that loneliness doesn’t necessarily require physical solitude, but rather an absence or paucity of connection, closeness, kinship: an inability, for one reason or another, to find as much intimacy as is desired. Unhappy, as the dictionary has it, as a result of being without the companionship of others. Hardly any wonder, then, that it can reach its apotheosis in a crowd.
As scientists are continuing to unpeel the physiological effects of loneliness, it is no surprise that this psychological state comes with an almost bodily dimension, which Laing captures vividly:
What does it feel like to be lonely? It feels like being hungry: like being hungry when everyone around you is readying for a feast. It feels shameful and alarming, and over time these feelings radiate outwards, making the lonely person increasingly isolated, increasingly estranged. It hurts, in the way that feelings do, and it also has physical consequences that take place invisibly, inside the closed compartments of the body. It advances, is what I’m trying to say, cold as ice and clear as glass, enclosing and engulfing.
There is, of course, a universe of difference between solitude and loneliness — two radically different interior orientations toward the same exterior circumstance of lacking companionship. We speak of “fertile solitude” as a developmental achievement essential for our creative capacity, but loneliness is barren and destructive; it cottons in apathy the will to create. More than that, it seems to signal an existential failing — a social stigma the nuances of which Laing addresses beautifully:
Loneliness is difficult to confess; difficult too to categorise. Like depression, a state with which it often intersects, it can run deep in the fabric of a person, as much a part of one’s being as laughing easily or having red hair. Then again, it can be transient, lapping in and out in reaction to external circumstance, like the loneliness that follows on the heels of a bereavement, break-up or change in social circles.
Like depression, like melancholy or restlessness, it is subject too to pathologisation, to being considered a disease. It has been said emphatically that loneliness serves no purpose… Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think any experience so much a part of our common shared lives can be entirely devoid of meaning, without a richness and a value of some kind.
Loneliness might be taking you towards an otherwise unreachable experience of reality.
Adrift and alone in the city that promises its inhabitants “the gift of privacy with the excitement of participation,” Laing cycles through a zoetrope of temporary homes — sublets, friends’ apartments, and various borrowed quarters, only amplifying the sense of otherness and alienation as she is forced to make “a life among someone else’s things, in a home that someone else has created and long since.”
But therein lies an inescapable metaphor for life itself — we are, after all, subletting our very existence from a city and a society and a world that have been there for much longer than we have, already arranged in a way that might not be to our taste, that might not be how the building would be laid out and its interior designed were we to do it from scratch ourselves. And yet we are left to make ourselves at home in the way things are, imperfect and sometimes downright ugly. The measure of a life has to do with this subletting ability — with how well we are able to settle into this borrowed, imperfect abode and how much beauty we can bring into existence with however little control over its design we may have.
This, perhaps, is why Laing found her only, if temporary, respite from loneliness in an activity propelled by the very act of leaving this borrowed home: walking. In a passage that calls to mind Robert Walser’s exquisite serenade to the soul-nourishment of the walk, she writes:
In certain circumstances, being outside, not fitting in, can be a source of satisfaction, even pleasure. There are kinds of solitude that provide a respite from loneliness, a holiday if not a cure. Sometimes as I walked, roaming under the stanchions of the Williamsburg Bridge or following the East River all the way to the silvery hulk of the U.N., I could forget my sorry self, becoming instead as porous and borderless as the mist, pleasurably adrift on the currents of the city.
But whatever semblance of a more solid inner center these peripatetic escapes into solitude offered, it was a brittle solidity:
I didn’t get this feeling when I was in my apartment; only when I was outside, either entirely alone or submerged in a crowd. In these situations I felt liberated from the persistent weight of loneliness, the sensation of wrongness, the agitation around stigma and judgement and visibility. But it didn’t take much to shatter the illusion of self-forgetfulness, to bring me back not only to myself but to the familiar, excruciating sense of lack.
It was in the lacuna between self-forgetfulness and self-discovery that Laing found herself drawn to the artists who became her companions in a journey both toward and away from loneliness. There is Edward Hopper with his iconic Nighthawks aglow in eerie jade, of which Laing writes:
There is no colour in existence that so powerfully communicates urban alienation, the atomisation of human beings inside the edifices they create, as this noxious pallid green, which only came into being with the advent of electricity, and which is inextricably associated with the nocturnal city, the city of glass towers, of empty illuminated offices and neon signs.
The diner was a place of refuge, absolutely, but there was no visible entrance, no way to get in or out. There was a cartoonish, ochre-coloured door at the back of the painting, leading perhaps into a grimy kitchen. But from the street, the room was sealed: an urban aquarium, a glass cell.
Green on green, glass on glass, a mood that expanded the longer I lingered, breeding disquiet.
Hopper himself had a conflicted relationship with the common interpretation that loneliness was a central theme of his work. Although he often denied that it was a deliberate creative choice, he once conceded in an interview: “I probably am a lonely one.” Laing, whose attention and sensitivity to even the subtlest texture of experience are what make the book so wonderful, considers how Hopper’s choice of language captures the essence of loneliness:
It’s an unusual formulation, a lonely one; not at all the same thing as admitting one is lonely. Instead, it suggests with that a, that unassuming indefinite article, a fact that loneliness by its nature resists. Though it feels entirely isolating, a private burden no one else could possibly experience or share, it is in reality a communal state, inhabited by many people. In fact, current studies suggest that more than a quarter of American adults suffers from loneliness, independent of race, education and ethnicity, while 45 per cent of British adults report feeling lonely either often or sometimes. Marriage and high income serve as mild deterrents, but the truth is that few of us are absolutely immune to feeling a greater longing for connection than we find ourselves able to satisfy. The lonely ones, a hundred million strong. Hardly any wonder Hopper’s paintings remain so popular, and so endlessly reproduced.
Reading his halting confession, one begins to see why his work is not just compelling but also consoling, especially when viewed en masse. It’s true that he painted, not once but many times, the loneliness of a large city, where the possibilities of connection are repeatedly defeated by the dehumanising apparatus of urban life. But didn’t he also paint loneliness as a large city, revealing it as a shared, democratic place, inhabited, whether willingly or not, by many souls?
What Hopper captures is beautiful as well as frightening. They aren’t sentimental, his pictures, but there is an extraordinary attentiveness to them… As if loneliness was something worth looking at. More than that, as if looking itself was an antidote, a way to defeat loneliness’s strange, estranging spell.
For the artists accompanying Laing on her journey — including Henry Darger, the brilliant and mentally ill Chicago janitor whose posthumously discovered paintings made him one of the most celebrated outsider artists of the twentieth century, and the creative polymath David Wojnarowicz, still in his thirties when AIDS took his life — loneliness was often twined with another profound affliction of the psyche: loss. In a passage evocative of Paul Goodman’s taxonomy of the nine types of silence, Laing offers a taxonomy of lonelinesses through the lens of loss:
Loss is a cousin of loneliness. They intersect and overlap, and so it’s not surprising that a work of mourning might invoke a feeling of aloneness, of separation. Mortality is lonely. Physical existence is lonely by its nature, stuck in a body that’s moving inexorably towards decay, shrinking, wastage and fracture. Then there’s the loneliness of bereavement, the loneliness of lost or damaged love, of missing one or many specific people, the loneliness of mourning.
But this lonesomeness of mortality finds its antidote in the abiding consolations of immortal works of art. “Art holds out the promise of inner wholeness,” philosopher Alain de Botton and art historian John Armstrong wrote in their inquiry into the seven psychological functions of art, and if loneliness is, as Laing puts it, “a longing for integration, for a sense of feeling whole,” what better answer to that longing than art? After all, in the immortal words of James Baldwin, “only an artist can tell, and only artists have told since we have heard of man, what it is like for anyone who gets to this planet to survive it.”
Looking back on her experience, Laing writes:
There are so many things that art can’t do. It can’t bring the dead back to life, it can’t mend arguments between friends, or cure AIDS, or halt the pace of climate change. All the same, it does have some extraordinary functions, some odd negotiating ability between people, including people who never meet and yet who infiltrate and enrich each other’s lives. It does have a capacity to create intimacy; it does have a way of healing wounds, and better yet of making it apparent that not all wounds need healing and not all scars are ugly.
If I sound adamant it is because I am speaking from personal experience. When I came to New York I was in pieces, and though it sounds perverse, the way I recovered a sense of wholeness was not by meeting someone or by falling in love, but rather by handling the things that other people had made, slowly absorbing by way of this contact the fact that loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed, but simply that one is alive.
There is a gentrification that is happening to cities, and there is a gentrification that is happening to the emotions too, with a similarly homogenising, whitening, deadening effect. Amidst the glossiness of late capitalism, we are fed the notion that all difficult feelings — depression, anxiety, loneliness, rage — are simply a consequence of unsettled chemistry, a problem to be fixed, rather than a response to structural injustice or, on the other hand, to the native texture of embodiment, of doing time, as David Wojnarowicz memorably put it, in a rented body, with all the attendant grief and frustration that entails.
I don’t believe the cure for loneliness is meeting someone, not necessarily. I think it’s about two things: learning how to befriend yourself and understanding that many of the things that seem to afflict us as individuals are in fact a result of larger forces of stigma and exclusion, which can and should be resisted.
Loneliness is personal, and it is also political. Loneliness is collective; it is a city. As to how to inhabit it, there are no rules and nor is there any need to feel shame, only to remember that the pursuit of individual happiness does not trump or excuse our obligations to each another. We are in this together, this accumulation of scars, this world of objects, this physical and temporary heaven that so often takes on the countenance of hell. What matters is kindness; what matters is solidarity. What matters is staying alert, staying open, because if we know anything from what has gone before us, it is that the time for feeling will not last.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone